Ban urges pressure on Syria, slams North Korea

WASHINGTON (AFP) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon urged the Security Council on Wednesday to overcome its paralysis and take meaningful action on Syria, and slammed North Korea's "reckless" nuclear test.

"It is essential for the Security Council to overcome the deadlock and find the unity that will make meaningful action possible," in Syria, Mr Ban said in a speech at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington.

While the 15-member Council remains deadlocked and Syria - where the UN estimates that nearly 70,000 people have died - is politically polarised, deaths and human rights violations are mounting, Mr Ban said.

Russia and China have vetoed three Western-drafted resolutions that would simply have threatened sanctions against Bashar al-Assad's regime and a UN-led bid to arrange a ceasefire and peace talks has made no headway.

"It's long past time we resolved this conflict," he said, adding that the international community must keep pushing for a political solution despite the difficulties. "Every day, another 5,000 Syrians flee the country." Mr Ban also criticised North Korea's third nuclear test, conducted this week, as an "outrageous and reckless act."

"I have deep concerns about the impact on regional stability and the global effort to curb nuclear proliferation," he added.

The UN chief said he met on Tuesday with the Council, which "strongly condemned the test and is exploring further action." After his OAS speech, Mr Ban held what he described as "very good discussions" with US lawmakers on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and was due for meetings with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee later Wednesday.

On Thursday, he plans to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The pair will discuss "regional issues, including Syria, Mali, North Korea, and global sustainable development issues, including climate change," Mr Ban told AFP.

Developments in the Middle East will also be a "top priority" of the talks, Mr Ban said.

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