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Military action against civilians have 'stopped': Assad

world Updated: Aug 18, 2011 10:59 IST

Syrian President Bashar al Assad has told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations against civilians in his country "had stopped."

Moon had expressed "alarm" in a phone conversation with Assad over the latest reports of continued widespread human rights violations and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians including in the Al Ramel district of Lattakia, which is home to several thousands of Palestinian refugees.

"The Secretary-General emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped," a statement from the UN chief's office said today.

Assad's remark comes even as the UN said it is temporarily withdrawing 26 of its non-essential international staff from Syria amid the escalating violence in the country.

According to media reports, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay is expected to suggest to the UN Security Council at a closed door session tomorrow that Syria's violent crackdown against demonstrators be investigated by The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Moon reiterated his call for an independent investigation into all reported killings and acts of violence, and for free access by the media. He called on the Syrian government to extend full cooperation to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Urging Assad to engage in a "credible and peaceful" reform process towards "comprehensive change", the Secretary-General said such reforms should be implemented swiftly without further military intervention.

Assad listed the reforms he would undertake in the next few months, including the revision of the constitution and holding of parliamentary elections, the statement added.

With the Syrian government agreeing to receive a UN humanitarian assessment mission, Moon said it would be critical for the mission to be provided with independent and unhindered access to all areas affected by violence in order to assess the humanitarian needs of the population.

Assad stated that the team would have access to different sites in Syria, the statement said.