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Syrian Civil War Asserted, Disputed
June 14, 2012

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The war of words and bullets continues in Syria, with high-ranking officials arguing over whether the country is in the midst of a civil war even as government and opposition forces struggle for supremacy on the ground.

The country's Foreign Ministry denied a charge by United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous that the fighting had evolved into full-scale civil war. The government continues to insist that its troops and tanks are fighting against outside terrorists who are arming the opposition. Meanwhile, the death toll mounts on both sides, with the U.N. now estimating that more than 10,000 people have died and the government reporting that more than 2,600 soldiers and police have died since the uprising began last year.

Kofi Annan, a former U.N. Secretary-General, is still promoting his six-point peace plan, which both opposition leaders and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said they agreed to, but one of the main points of the plan, a call for a cease-fire, has been ignored by both sides.

Western representatives on the U.N. Security Council have on more than one occasion put forward a resolution condemning Syria's government's actions, but each resolution has been vetoed by either or both China and Russia. For the first time, China has stated its concern for Syria's actions, in the wake of a well-publicized massacre of a few weeks ago and a new report of children being used as human shields. Russia has called for an international conference on the crisis, and Russia's foreign minister has announced his government's support for the removal of Assad if the Syrian people agree on it.

Leaders from other countries have been reluctant to commit to any kind of military intervention like the one deployed in Libya last year, in part because the opposition has so far lacked a consistent leadership and message. The main antagonist to Assad's rule is the Syrian National Council, which recently chose a new leader, Abdulbaset Sieda, a Kurdish academic. Sieda, who opposition forces hope will be the sort of unifying figure they lack, immediately called for more U.N. peace monitors in places like the central city of Homs, which has been a hotbed of opposition and, therefore, a target for many attacks by government forces. Other cities around the country have been the target of fierce shelling as well, as the government has attempted to consolidate its hold on an increasingly split country.



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