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Terrorism & Security

UN: Syrian regime, rebels both increasing attacks on civilians (+video)

UN investigators said they have strong evidence of human rights abuses committed by both sides of the conflict in Syria, which has left more than 19,000 people, mostly civilians, dead.

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Yesterday also marked the first meeting of a newly formed group of four Mideast “heavyweights” tasked with finding an end to Syria’s conflict, reports a second AP story. The group consisted of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt – all supporters of Syria’s rebels – as well as Iran, the staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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“Nobody should expect from one meeting an immediate action plan which we agree upon and could be presented to others,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who added that the “regional ownership” of the Syrian crisis was the most important aspect of the gathering.

Iran recently acknowledged its direct role in aiding Mr. Assad’s army, and Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister, said yesterday that “the solution in Syria should be a Syrian solution,” not “imposed from the outside,” reports AP. This stance could make any regional agreement challenging.

The Turkish foreign minister focused more on civilians, saying the ultimate goal should be “a strong Syria” based on the “legitimate rights and demands of the people.”

Yesterday’s UN report comes almost one year after the US and European Union implemented sanctions on Syria in an effort to place non-military pressure on the violent conflict there. Though the sanctions have inflicted economic pain, it may not have reached the intended ranks, reports USA Today.

In August 2011, President Obama announced new sanctions against companies and figures in the Assad regime that barred U.S. citizens and firms from dealing with them. The sanctions were announced the same week that the European Union imposed an embargo of Syrian oil.

Syria's Central Bureau of Statistics revealed last month that consumer prices rose 36% in June from a year earlier amid sanctions on more than 100 individuals and entities. The cost of electricity and gas increased 32%.

But the Assad family, often referred to in the country as a "mafia," has more than 40 years in power established control over much of Syria's domestic corporations and large businesses that are relatively unaffected by sanctions.

Besides controlling most of Syria's national wealth, which runs into hundreds of billions of dollars, the family's personal assets could equal more than $1 billion, [Iain Willis, director of research at Alaco, a business intelligence consultant in London] says.

Pinheiro noted that the combination of economic sanction and unabated violence has in part worsened the situation in Syria. “The Commission maintains that sanctions result in a denial of the most basic human rights to Syrians,” he said. “Scarcity of basic human needs such as potable water food, electricity, petrol and cooking fuel is causing rampant inflation.”

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