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UN Rights Council Holds Urgent Session On Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been accused by the United Nations of atrocities against protesters.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is due to hold an emergency session on the conflict in Syria.

The session in Geneva, Switzerland, follows the release of a report by an independent UN commission of inquiry that said Syrian forces have committed crimes against humanity, including executions, torture and rape, since protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March.

Ahead of the meeting, the UN High Commissioner For Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on December 1 said the UN believes the death toll from the Syrian conflict is 4,000 or higher.

She also said she was prepared to describe the situation in Syria as a "civil war," with increasing reports of armed resistance to government forces from defecting soldiers.

The United States and European Union on December 30 announced additional sanctions against the Assad regime in a bid to pressure the regime to halt attacks on protesters.

In another development, Russia's Interfax news agency, quoting what it describes as a diplomatic source in Moscow, has reported that Russia has delivered anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria's regime.

No official confirmation or denial of the report was immediately available.

The report quotes the source as saying Russia had supplied to Syria Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, as part of Bastion mobile coastal missile systems.

The report does not say when the deliveries took place or how many missiles have been delivered, but says the contract was worth around $300 million.

It says Russia believes the weapons will allow Syria to protect its entire coast from a potential sea-borne attack.

The report quotes Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as saying in February that Moscow intended to fulfill the contract, despite opposition to the deal from Israel and its ally the United States.

Russia, a traditional ally of the Syrian regime, has helped block moves for UN sanctions targeting Syria over the bloodshed.

compiled from agency reports