UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The reported brutality in Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, where forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels continue to face off in bloody clashes, may amount to crimes against humanity, the U.N. chief said on Friday.
"As we meet here, Aleppo ... is the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly ahead of a vote on a Saudi-drafted resolution that would condemn Damascus.
"The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes," Ban said. "Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account."
He also reiterated his concern about the deadlock on the U.N. Security Council. Last month Russia and China joined forces in their third double veto to strike down a resolution that would have called for an end to the violence and threatened Damascus with sanctions.
"I have said many times how much I regret the divisions that have paralyzed action in the Security Council," he said.
He repeated that he intended to replace U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan, who announced on Thursday his intention to step down at the end of August. Annan said the deadlock on the 15-nation council was among the factors that had undermined his peace efforts. Annan also said that neither side in Syria appeared to want peace, a point Ban echoed on Friday.
"Despite repeated verbal acceptances of the (Annan's) six-point (peace) plan endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, both the government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence," Ban said.
"But there are no winners in Aleppo today, nor anywhere else in the country," he said. "The losers in this escalating battle are the people of Syria."