[A Syrian man walks past damaged buildings in the northern town of Atareb, 25 kms east of Syria’s second largest city Aleppo, on July 31, 2012. While fighting raged in Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo for a fourth straight day, clashes between the Syrian army and rebels also erupted in Damascus and other parts of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLIAHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GettyImages] *** [] ** TCN OUT **

 

After countless speeches, meetings and behind-the-scenes  discussions, the war in Syria remained the unsolved problem that loomed over  this year?s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

As the week-long meeting of the U.N. General Assembly ended  Monday, there were no breakthroughs on a civil war that has vexed diplomats,  paralyzed the Security Council and raised new questions about the relevance of  the United Nations.

Anyone willing to look closely, however, might spot a few  signs of movement. The new international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said  he saw an ?opening? for a solution and was working on a new approach after  visiting Syria. The Emir of Qatar and other leaders in the region called for  some kind of Arab-led intervention. But details were hard to come by.

Talk about Syria, however, was heard everywhere.

Over seven days of speeches, Syria was discussed by one  country after another, from Albania: Syrians ?are suffering a primitive  bloodshed by a regime that has irreversibly lost its legitimacy to lead;? to  Zambia: ?Humanity has again been embarrassed by this unnecessary carnage.?

Dozens of nations excoriated the regime of President Bashar  Assad for its role in a conflict that has killed at least 30,000 Syrians,  according to activists.

Even the world?s top diplomat joined in. After  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Syria?s foreign minister Monday, the U.N.  chief?s press office issued a blunt statement.

?The Secretary-General raised in the strongest terms the  continued killings, massive destruction, human rights abuses, and aerial and  artillery attacks committed by the government,? it said. ?He stressed that it  was the Syrian people who were being killed every day, and appealed to the  government of Syria to show compassion to its own people.?

Ban again went after Syria in a meeting later Monday on the  threat of chemical weapons, alluding to the widely held belief that the Assad  regime has stockpiles of them. Ban warned that the ?use of such weapons would be  an outrageous crime with dire consequences.?

Assad had a few defenders, like Iran, Cuba and, most  notably, Russia. Moscow, Syria?s biggest protector, has joined with China to  block three attempts by the U.S. and European Union nations to pass Security  Council resolutions aimed at pressuring the Assad regime into negotiating a  peace deal. The last threatened sanctions.

As the General Assembly wound down Monday, Syria got its  chance to defend itself.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem described a vast global  conspiracy bent on bringing down his government.

The media was provoking extremists, al-Moallem said, and  inventing a refugee crisis ? 300,000 Syrians have fled, according to the  U.N.

The Americans, Europeans and fellow Arabs were all to blame  for meddling in Syrian affairs by calling on Assad to step down. Neighbors like  Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were arming and financing ?terrorists? who were  trying to overthrow Assad, he said.

?This terrorism which is externally supported is  accompanied by unprecedented media provocation based on igniting religious  extremism sponsored by well-known states in the region,? the minister said.

After mentioning ?terrorist? or ?terrorism? 24 times in his  speech, al-Moallem then said the government was ready to negotiate with the  opposition and ?work together to stop the shedding of Syrian blood.?

?Propaganda? was the swift response from the chief  opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which released a statement saying  the latest offer of peace talks came from a ?brutal and delusional Syrian  regime? that ?continues to pay lip service to diplomacy.?

Members of the opposition acknowledged that neighboring  Arab countries are supporting the rebels but said the Assad regime has only  itself to blame after its bloody response to protests that began peacefully 18  months ago.

?It is the regime?s mindless, brutal and criminal military crackdown that pushed the Syrian people to ask for help from the international community, from NATO and from the devil himself if necessary to protect them,? Haitham Manna, a Paris-based Syrian dissident and senior member of the National Coordination Body opposition group, told The Associated Press.

The entire week at the U.N., which included a high-level  meeting of foreign ministers on Syria, amounted to little more than  ?handwringing,? said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow and Syria expert at the  Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Time would have been better spent planning for a transition  if and when Assad finally falls, he said.

?It?s those who are taking the shots against the Assad  regime that will be calling them after Assad is gone,? he said. ?How will the  U.N. deal with that??

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