Saturday, February 24, 2018

Clinton and U.N. official issue warnings to Syrian leader

The Syrian military continued its bombardment of opposition strongholds Tuesday as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested during a Senate hearing that President Bashar Assad could be considered a war criminal for his relentless crackdown.

The diplomatic pressure on Assad was also applied in Geneva, where Navi Pillay, the United Nations' top human rights official, told a meeting of the Human Rights Council that in the face of "unspeakable violations that take place every moment," Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Clinton said in response to a question that "there would be an argument to be made" that Assad was a war criminal based on the definition of crimes against humanity. But, she added, the label "limits options, perhaps, to persuade leaders to step down from power."

A senior official in Tunisia told Reuters that the Tunisian government would be willing to offer asylum to Assad if he would agree to hand over power.

Syrian activists said the government's military offensive in the besieged Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs continued, with 26 people killed there Tuesday, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an antigovernment group. Around the country, 102 people died in fighting Tuesday, the group said.

The British Foreign Office confirmed that a wounded photographer from Britain, Paul Conroy, who had been trapped in Homs, had escaped to Lebanon.

Syrian activists said that the group smuggling him into Lebanon had come under artillery fire. The activist group Avaaz said 13 people were killed.

Unclear was the whereabouts of Edith Bouvier, a French journalist who was injured in the same attack Feb. 22.

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