June 16, 2011 / 6:06 PM / 8 years ago

U.N.'s Ban urges Assad to halt Syria violence

BRASILIA (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he had spoken to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and urged him to “stop killing people” and to engage in dialogue.

Speaking to journalists during a visit to Brazil’s capital, Ban also said he hoped the United Nations would be able to speak in a “coherent” manner over Syria.

“I again strongly urge President Assad to stop killing people and engage in inclusive dialogue and to take bold measures before it’s too late,” Ban said.

Syria’s military has crushed protests inspired by other Arab uprisings, forcing thousands of refugees to stream north across the border into Turkey.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the protests broke out in March against 41 years of rule by the Assad family.

Assad, an ally of Shi’ite Iran and supporter of militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, faces international condemnation, but the only concrete response to the violence has been U.S. and EU sanctions against the president and his close officials.

Reporting by Raymond Colitt; writing by Stuart Grudgings, editing by Anthony Boadle and Jackie Frank

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