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Del Ponte Cites 'Crimes Against Humanity' In Syria

Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria Paulo Pinheiro arrives with commission member Carla del Ponte for a news conference in Geneva on October 25.
Former UN prosecutor Carla del Ponte has said she wants to identify high-level Syrian officials who may have been involved in war crimes.

Del Ponte, who was speaking at a press conference in Geneva on October 25, is a member of a UN commission investigating alleged rights abuses in Syria.

She led past investigations into war crimes committed during the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has been gathering evidence and testimony for the past year on atrocities committed by Syrian government forces, led by President Bashar al-Assad, as well as rebel fighters in the 19-month-old conflict.

The head of the commission, Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, told reporters in Geneva that his team is seeking a meeting with Assad in Damascus to probe the war crimes allegations.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia, a longtime Syrian ally, expected Syrian government and rebel forces to observe a truce during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins on October 26.

"We share the concern about the situation in Syria," Lavrov said. "We are sure that the crisis can only have a political solution. The sooner the violence is over, and the dialogue with no preconditions starts, the more hope we will have for resolving the situation with minimal loss. I very much hope the cease-fire effort that is ongoing at the moment for the period of the Muslim festival will yield."

The UN Security Council has called on the Syrian government and rebel groups to accept the truce proposed by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

The Security Council has been sharply divided over Syria, but in a statement adopted unanimously on October 24, the 15-nation council called on all sides to work toward a “sustainable cessation of all violence.”

The Syrian government has not yet officially announced whether it accepted the truce plan. At least one rebel group rejected it.

Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy, has warned that the failure of yet another UN cease-fire plan would only worsen the fighting.

According to Syrian rights activists, more than 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed since protests against Assad's regime began in March 2011.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Interfax