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Syria defiantly denies killings, UN council meets

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The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Annan’s spokesman declined to comment.

The Houla attacks caused outrage among American and international officials that Makdissi’s comments Sunday failed to assuage.

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would summon Syria’s most senior diplomat in the U.K. on Monday so the Foreign Office could "make clear our condemnation of the Syrian regime’s actions."

Kuwait, which currently heads the 22-member Arab League, called for an Arab ministerial meeting to "take steps to put an end to the oppressive practices against the Syrian people."

Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry urged that an international inquiry be convened, saying the killings "could constitute a war crime."

In Paris, the head of the exile Syrian National Council also condemned the killings.

"The kids of Houla are the kids of all of Syria," Burhan Ghalioun told reporters. "Killing the kids of Houla is like killing the kids of all of Syria."

Anti-regime activists scoffed at the government’s version of events. One Houla activist said via Skype that the area had at most 300 fighters, but that none had more than rifles and that they often lacked ammunition.

"If we had anti-tank missiles, there would be no tanks left in the area," said Mohammed, declining to give his full name for fear of retribution.

Activists reported shelling, gunfire and arrest raids in opposition areas throughout the country Sunday as well as clashes between regime forces and rebels in a number of areas. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces killed at least 14 civilians, while rebels killed nine soldiers.

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Activist claims could not be independently verified. The Syrian government bars most media from operating in the country.


Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Adam Schreck in Dubai and Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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