U.N. Visits Hama To Investigate Human Rights Abuses
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Another sign of international pressure on Syria: today, a United Nations team visited the city of Hama. It was investigating human rights abuses. The U.N. says more than 2,200 people have died in the crackdown on anti-government protests, many of them in Hama.
BLOCK: NPR's Kelly McEvers just returned from a trip to Syria, and she joins us now from Beirut. And, Kelly, let's start with that U.N. team that visited the city of Hama today to investigate human rights abuses. What are Syrian officials saying about this scrutiny they're getting from the U.N.?
KELLY MCEVERS, Host:
He actually added a new element and said the United States and Western Europe is behind this uprising. You know, so on one hand, it sounds like a regime that's desperate and lashing out, like Moammar Gadhafi did in recent months in Libya, but on the other hand, you know, the regime is very confident that the support it's getting from countries like Iran and Russia will keep it in power.
BLOCK: Well, if the Syrian regime, as you say, is very confident, what about the activists? What's their frame of reference right now?
MCEVERS: As for the leaders of the opposition, you know, the so-called intellectuals who are supposed to be sort of, you know, leading a political solution to this problem, they remain unable to come up with a sort of unified position. They've been hoping to name a transitional council like the one you saw forming early on in Libya and some kind of plan, but they've yet to do that. And analysts say that they're running out of time, that the only group that has a plan right now is the regime, and that plan is a bloody one.
BLOCK: So, Kelly, given what you saw on this trip, where do you see this heading?
MCEVERS: My sense is that the regime's position right now to the opposition is, hey, you want to topple us, then, you know, bring it on. We'll fight you, and we will win. And increasingly, the opposition is ready to respond violently. If that happens, you have a very different thing in Syria. You have a conflict that looks more like a war, one that could get very sectarian very quickly because, you know, Syria is a country where a minority group allied with the Shiites of the region rules a Sunni majority.
MCEVERS: So that's the kind of fight that could very easily spread to places that have already had their own sectarian conflicts in the region, namely, you know, Lebanon and Iraq.
BLOCK: That's NPR's Kelly McEvers who's just back from a trip to Syria. She joined us from Beirut. Kelly, thanks very much.
MCEVERS: You're welcome.
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