|Tuesday, 29 May 2012 12:44|
Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab special envoy, will seek to salvage his Syrian peace plan during planned "frank" talks with President Bashar al-Assad, amid international horror at the Houla massacre of over 100 people.
As he began a visit to Syria, Annan called the "tragic" massacre in the central town "an appalling moment with profound consequences".
The talks between Annan and Assad were scheduled for Tuesday, a Syrian official said on condition of anonymity.
The former UN chief said those responsible must be held to account, and urged "everyone with a gun" to abide by his six-point blueprint to help end 15 months of bloodshed.
Walid al-Muallem, Syria's foreign minister, met Annan and the head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Major-General Robert Mood, on Monday.
Muallem explained "the truth of what is happening in Syria and the attacks against law and order which are aimed at sowing chaos [despite] the reforms that Syria has adopted in all areas", the official SANA news agency reported.
World leaders have voiced outrage over the deaths of at least 108 people in the central town of Houla on Friday and Saturday, among them 49 children and 34 women, many blown to bits or shot dead at point blank range.
Activists said several children had been stabbed to death.
French President Francois Hollande\'s office said on Monday that Syria\'s leaders would have to answer for their "murderous folly".
Pope Benedict XVI was "pained" by the massacre and called on religious communities in Syria to cooperate to bring peace to the violence-wracked country.
Canada\'s foreign minister called on the UN Security Council to take "stronger diplomatic action," including economic sanctions against the Syrian government over its "senseless slaughter of its own people".
The comments came after the Security Council - where Syrian allies Russia and China wield veto powers - on Sunday condemned the Damascus government\'s use of heavy artillery in the assault on Houla.
Annan said in Damascus that he was "personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla," saying the Security Council was right to condemn it.
He urged Syria to take "bold steps" to signal it is serious in its intention to resolve the crisis peacefully.
"And this message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun.
"The six-point plan has to be implemented comprehensively. And this is not happening. I intend to have serious and frank discussions with President Bashar al-Assad".
Human Rights Watch, the US-based organisation, demanded that Annan push Assad\'s government to allow the UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Syria to investigate the massacre.
Annan\'s peace plan was supposed to begin with a ceasefire from April 12, but this has been broken daily.
A Syria watchdog group said another 64 people were killed throughout the country on Monday, a day after 87 died despite the putative truce.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 34 of Sunday's dead were killed in random shelling of the central city of Hama by troops retaliating for losses.
The SOHR says more than 13,000 people have been killed in violence since the outbreak of the revolt of the Assad regime in March last year.
The Security Council\'s condemnation of the Syrian government's role in the Houla massacre has done little to bring the international powers together to end the crisis.
Britain and France had proposed a text making an even stronger condemnation of the Assad government, but Russia would not agree on the wording and demanded a special meeting before approving the eventual text.
France said on Monday it would host a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris, after Hollande and David Cameron, UK prime minister, held talks on the crisis, and condemned the Assad government for its part in the Houla massacre.
"The murderous folly of the Damascus regime represents a threat for regional security and its leaders will have to answer for their acts," Hollande\'s office said.
And Britain summoned Syria's top diplomat in London to protest against the "sickening and evil" Houla massacre, the government said.