UN chief disappointed by Assad's speech
BEIRUT -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed disappointment with President Bashar Assad Monday for rejecting the most important elements of an international road map to end Syria's civil war -- a political handover and establishment of a transitional governing body.
Assad, in a rare speech Sunday, outlined his own vision for ending the conflict with a plan that would keep him in power. He dismissed any chance of dialogue with the armed opposition and called on Syrians to fight what he called "murderous criminals."
The West, including the United States and Britain, denounced Assad's speech, which came amid stepped-up international efforts for a peaceful settlement.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also criticized the Syrian leader's initiative. He accused Assad of "state terrorism" and called on him to relinquish power.
The violence on the ground, meanwhile, continued unabated.
Syria's state media said yesterday that government troops repulsed a rebel attack on a police school in the northern city of Aleppo.
The official SANA news agency said regime forces killed and wounded members of a "terrorist group" in the fighting late Sunday, but did not provide a number.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels clashed with troops in the suburbs of Damascus, including in Daraya, south of the capital. The observatory said the army sent reinforcements there to join in an offensive aimed at dislodging rebels from the district, located just a few miles from a strategic military air base west of the capital.
Activists also reported shelling and fighting in southern Syria, as well as in eastern and central Syria.