'Stop the violence,' U.N. leader tells Syrians

Posted: January 31, 2013

BEIRUT - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a donor conference for humanitarian aid for Syria on Wednesday by calling on all parties, especially the government of President Bashar al-Assad, to end the violence in the nearly two-year-old conflict that, by United Nations estimates, has left at least 60,000 dead.

"The situation in Syria is catastrophic and getting worse by the day," the U.N. chief said at the conference, which is being held in Kuwait and has drawn representatives from more than 60 countries as well as several nongovernmental organizations.

"I appeal to all sides, and particularly the Syrian government, to stop the killing. In the name of humanity: Stop the violence."

The conference aims to raise $1.5 billion to address a humanitarian crisis that is spinning out of control. Ban noted at the conference that more than 700,000 Syrians have fled the country and roughly 10 percent of the population has become internally displaced.

Shortly after the session got under way, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and conference host Kuwait each pledged $300 million in aid.

President Obama, who has been under political pressure to do more to stem the violence, announced Tuesday that the United States would provide $155 million in new humanitarian assistance to Syrians, nearly doubling the American commitment. Obama said the assistance would go toward providing medicine, food, and clothing and blankets as winter approaches.

U.N. officials said the United Nations is seeking to provide at least $1.5 billion in relief. Officials warned Monday of increasingly desperate conditions for about four million Syrians inside the war-torn country and about 650,000 in refugee camps outside.

On Tuesday, at least 65 people were found dead in the contested Syrian city of Aleppo, many of them bound and shot execution-style, according to opposition activists.

The killings provided a sobering backdrop to stalled diplomatic efforts to end the fighting.

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