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Forces pound rebel bastion Homs city

Agence France-Presse . Damascus

Syrian forces pounded a rebel-held district of Homs city for a second straight day on Wednesday, activists said, while the UN Security Council aimed for unity to bolster special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace bid.
The reported assault came as UN chief Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to Jakarta, warned the Syrian crisis had ‘massive’ regional repercussions.
The Homs district of ‘Khaldiyeh is being bombed, with shells and rockets, for a second day,’ Hadi Abdullah of the Syrian Revolution General Commission said, reached by telephone from Beirut.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said 14 civilians were killed in Khaldiyeh on Tuesday and also reported renewed clashes in the Damascus area.
Abdullah said he feared a repeat of the month-long battering that killed hundreds in the Baba Amr district of Homs before the army moved in on March 1 after a withdrawal by Free Syrian Army rebels.
‘That would be a catastrophe,’ he said.
Abdullah said thousands of residents who fled Baba Amr and other parts of the city in central Syria had taken refuge in Khaldiyeh, ‘the last front left’ in Homs.
The UN Security Council, meanwhile, aimed to close ranks on a diluted statement to bolster UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to end the year-old crisis in Syria, after Russia refused to back any ‘ultimatum.’
Annan, who held talks in Damascus on March 10-11, briefed the Security Council on Friday.
The UN secretary generalBan said in a speech to a defence conference in the Indonesian capital that Annan was ‘working tirelessly.’
The prepared text of Ban’s speech released to media in Jakarta said Annan was expected to return soon to Damascus. The line was removed from the speech as delivered, and Ban did not give any timeframe for a return.
Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for Ban, said: ‘The joint special envoy’s technical team is still in Damascus, and he is still waiting to hear more details from them before he decides on his travel plans.’
Ban, urging unity, told his Jakarta audience that the United Nations had three major priorities in Syria.
These were ‘an immediate end to the violence — all violence’, an ‘inclusive political dialogue’ to shape the country’s future, ‘and thirdly we have to provide, immediately and urgently, humanitarian access’.
‘We all have a responsibility to work for a resolution of this profound and extremely dangerous situation and crisis,’ Ban said. The situation was ‘a crisis that has potentially massive repercussions’ for the region.
Russia said on Tuesday it was ready to back either a Security Council statement or resolution on Annan’s proposals on ending the crisis as long as it contained no ultimatums.
At the United Nations, diplomats from the 15-nation Security Council held four hours of talks on Tuesday on the Western-drafted presidential statement.

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