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UN chief calls for access to Syria for aid workers

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 7 Jul 2011 17:24 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* U.N. largely shut out from Syria during crackdown

* Ban also calls for genuine national dialogue in Bahrain

GENEVA, Jul 7 (Reuters) - United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon called on Syria on Thursday to give U.N. aid workers immediate access to evaluate the needs of civilians caught up in a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.

The world body has been largely shut out from Syria, which has also prevented most independent media from operating inside the country, making it difficult to verify accounts from authorities and activists.

Ban urged the government of President Bashar al-Assad to allow a team of U.N. human rights investigators, who have been in the region, to carry out their mission in Syria.

"In Syria, the killings continue and this must stop. I call on the Syrian leadership to deliver on its commitments and allow in the United Nations humanitarian assessment team and the human rights fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council. It is time to see progress there," Ban told reporters.

Residents in the Syrian city of Hama blocked streets with burning tyres on Thursday to keep out busloads of security forces, and dozens of families fled to a nearby town, an activist and a resident said.

On Bahrain, where Sunni rulers crushed mostly Shi&${esc.hash}39;ite-led pro-democracy protests in March, Ban welcomed the start of a national dialogue.

"That dialogue must be genuine, fully inclusive and concrete. It must set the stage for real reforms that meet the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people," he said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

(Created by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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