UN chief pays busy-schedule visit to Lebanon

Stop killing your own people, Ban tells Syria’s Assad

Ban meets Lebanese leaders, says Lebanon is model for region

Turkish foreign minister says Turkey refuses that Lebanon bears brunt of regional developments

Hariri says no civil war in Lebanon, Ban’s visit boosts independence

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday to halt violence against a 10-month uprising and said the "old order" of dynasties and one-man rule in the Arab world was coming to an end.

"Today, I say again to President Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. Stop killing your people. The path of repression is a dead end," Ban told a conference in Lebanon on political reform.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on protests which erupted against Assad in March, inspired by uprisings that toppled three Arab leaders last year.

Syria says 2,000 members of the government forces have been killed by "armed terrorists."

"From the very beginning of the ... revolutions, from Tunisia through Egypt and beyond, I called on leaders to listen to their people," Ban said. "Some did, and benefited. Others did not, and today they are reaping the whirlwind."

The conflict in Syria has become one of the bloodiest and enduring confrontations of the "Arab Spring." An escalating armed insurgency, driven by army defectors and gunmen, has raised fears of civil war.

The deployment of Arab League monitors in Syria has failed to stem the bloodshed and Assad, facing sanctions, increasing isolation and a crumbling economy, has vowed to crush what he says is a foreign-backed conspiracy.

The 46-year-old president, who inherited power when his father died in 2000, also promised a parliamentary election under a new constitution later this year, and on Sunday declared a general amnesty for crimes committed during the uprising.

"The old way, the old order, is crumbling," Ban said.

"One-man rule and the perpetuation of family dynasties, monopolies of wealth and power, the silencing of the media, the deprivation of fundamental freedoms... To all of this, the people say: Enough."

But he also said that the transition to democracy in the region would be hard and drawn out, requiring genuine reform, inclusive dialogue, a proper role for women and a solution for millions of young people seeking work.

In the short term, the instability created by the uprisings had exacerbated economic difficulties. Unemployment was rising, along with food and fuel prices, while commerce suffered.

"Meanwhile, old elites remain entrenched. The levers of coercion remain in their hands," Ban said. "...We have reached a sober moment."

Where authoritarian rulers had been toppled, there was no guarantee that their successors would uphold human rights.

"The new regimes must not elevate certain religious or ethnic communities at the expense of others," he said in apparent reference to fears that newly empowered Sunni Islamist movements could marginalize minorities.

Acknowledging that the United Nations itself needed to "update its approach" to address the region's problems, Ban said it was supporting change in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.

"We are firmly committed to help Arab countries through this transition, by every means," he said.

Visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon met the commander of the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon on Saturday and paid tribute to fallen soldiers.

Ban, who is on a three-day visit to Lebanon, traveled by helicopter to the town of Naqura, headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

He laid a wreath and observed a minute of silence at a memorial site for the 293 peacekeepers who have died in Lebanon since the creation of UNIFIL in 1978.

"Peace-keeping is always dangerous but it is especially deadly in Lebanon," he said in a brief speech.

"More personnel have lost their lives serving in UNIFIL than in any other United Nations peacekeeping operation," he added. "This weighs heavily on my heart."

UNIFIL soldiers have been the target of three attacks in the past year that have prompted fears they could be linked to the deadly unrest in neighboring Syria.

Ban said he had stressed in his meetings with Lebanese officials on Friday that the safety of UNIFIL personnel was "critically important" and had called for strengthening security for UNIFIL.

The force was deployed in 1978 to maintain stability at the border between Lebanon and Israel.

It was expanded in 2006 following a devastating war between the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and the Jewish state. It now numbers some 12,000 troops from 35 countries.

Ban met with Major General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the head of UNIFIL, who briefed him on the force's operations in the south.

He was also meeting in Beirut with members of the Western-backed opposition and other officials.

He was to hold talks in the evening with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is traveling to Beirut to attend a UN conference on the transition to democracy in the Arab world.

On Sunday, Ban is to give the keynote address at the two-day conference's opening ceremony.

Ban is inaugurating his second term this week with a visit to Lebanon, in which he intends to assert his courage in adhering to his principle, and his refusal to seclude himself as a hostage of fear-mongering and intimidation.

He does not do this as a challenge to anyone, and will not go there raising a banner or hailing himself as a leader. Ban Ki-moon is certainly aware that he lacks the feature of "charisma", both in terms of the attraction that charms people or of the extraordinary ability to communicate with people.

Nevertheless, he sees himself as a man of principle, one of strong character and patient determination, who devotes himself to carrying out the task entrusted to him; and does not back down once having reached resolve.

He is going to Lebanon with messages for the Lebanese and for their Syrian neighbor, as well as for the broader Arab region.

The gist of his regional message is that he is determined to continue supporting the democratic transformation in the Arab region, no matter what such change entails in terms of risks or surprises.

Indeed, he has decided to wager on the awakening in the Arab region, even if what has been called the Arab Spring were to turn into the Spring of the Islamists.

His message to Syria comes through his relatively lengthy visit to Lebanon, under the banner of emphasizing trust in this fragile country's ability to maintain cohesion and stability, no matter what happens in neighboring Syria.

And his message to the Lebanese across the political spectrum is that, first, this little country is perhaps the United Nation's biggest project, and the Secretary-General is determined to support such an investment and to stand alongside UN workers there; and second, that the Lebanese government, headed by Najib Mikati, had been internationally isolated at the onset of its term, as it had been considered to be Hezbollah's government.

However, by fulfilling its commitments to the UN and its resolutions, it is worthy of the Secretary-General inaugurating his second term with a visit here, a visit that would contribute to breaking its isolation if it perseveres in implementing UN resolutions. Lebanon is the first stop of his second term, but Ban Ki-moon's goals and aspirations are much broader.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Sunday with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and Future Movement MP Fouad Siniora.

Jumblatt met with Davutoglu at Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel where the two discussed current regional issues.

Following his meeting with the PSP leader, Davutoglu also met with Siniora, the head of the Future Movement Parliamentary bloc, who hosted a lunch in the Turkish official’s honor.

The meeting also included the head of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's office Nader Hariri and former Information Minister Tarek Mitri.

Davutoglu arrived in Beirut Saturday and met with the country's top three officials separately and was quoted as saying that Lebanon was the home of the first Arab Spring.

He also held talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai in the presence of Cypriot Bishop Yusef Sweif. The talks centered on the situation of Maronites who were forced to emigrate from Northern Cyprus to the Republic of Cyprus.

Davutoglu said Sunday that Turkey does not want the Arab Spring to lead to the suffering of any Christians.

Turkey is planning to host a Muslim-Christian meeting in the near future in order to address certain Christian fears, the minister told reporters during a visit to Beirut.

He also expressed his satisfaction with Lebanese leaders on their stances toward Syria.

“We don’t want to see Lebanon [become] another victim of what is happening in Syria. I was very impressed with the Lebanese leaders who are acting wisely and see the risks posed to Lebanon. We want Lebanon to stay stable,” he said.

There was a strong indication after Davutoglu’s talks with top Lebanese officials that the Turkish leadership has given up hope that the Syrian government is able to carry out the necessary steps to allow President Bashar Assad to successfully resolve the crisis.

Davutoglu addressed the situation in Syria and issues of regional stability in talks with Lebanon’s leading politicians during his visit to Beirut over the weekend.

The minister also stressed the importance of Lebanon’s pivotal role in the region and Turkey’s efforts to mediate the ongoing crisis in the two countries’ shared neighbor.

Speaking to reporters in Beirut Sunday, Davutoglu said that in terms of creating safe havens or buffer zones within Turkey, Ankara would follow the lead of the U.N. Security Council.

However, he added, “if there are major developments that impose themselves then we might seek our own measures.” After meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati Saturday, Davutoglu said that Lebanon was the birthplace of the Arab Spring movement.

“The first Arab Spring, in order to achieve democracy, began in Lebanon, which has a rich heritage and culture and has witnessed free and fair elections, cultural and political exchange, and national reconciliation,” Davutoglu told reporters, adding that his government regarded Lebanon’s stability as paramount to that of the region as a whole.

“It is my pleasure to be here again in Beirut, it is like a second home to Turks, and especially to me,” the visiting minister added.

The foreign minister also stressed the importance of bilateral and economic ties between Turkey and Lebanon, adding that “we also have a common vision about the regional situation and the changes in the region and the Arab Spring.”

Also Saturday, Davutoglu met with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, with whom he discussed bilateral relations, and the situation in the region, according to the National News Agency, and later with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri followed by talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

Asked whether the subject of Syria had been discussed, Davutoglu said: “We talked more about issues dealing with religious tolerance and dialogue at this crucial and historical turning point in the region, and we stressed the importance of respect for all religions and sects. Lebanon is the positive model for peaceful living among the sects.”

Davutoglu also met with Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad Saturday. Media reports said talks between the two were heated and lasted around two hours.

Raad, head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc in Parliament, announced a difference of opinion between himself and Davutoglu on the events in Syria, which has according to the U.N. led to over 5,000 deaths so far.

Raad stressed the need for change to come from within Syria itself, and not be enforced from outside.

In discussions with Davutoglu Sunday, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, the deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, called on the Turkish leadership to “coordinate and cooperate with the Islamic Republic of Iran to resolve the crisis in Syria, through dialogue and consultations ... Turkey must play the role of reformer and unifier in Syria and thus confront the smuggling of weapons to Syria and support national unity and coexistence to activate cooperation and communication among the Syrian people.”

“Syria is the first defense in confronting Israel,” and as such, “we must preserve its stability, as that preserves the entire region,” he added. “We reject sectarian strife and will stand against it.”

Davutoglu also met Sunday with Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, who welcomed the foreign minister to Lebanon and expressed “pride in Turkey, its wise leadership and positive role in the Arab region and its openness to Arab states.”

He also voiced appreciation for “the Turkish role in supporting Lebanon and helping it survive challenges.”

Qabbani spoke to Davutoglu of his desire to unite Christian and Muslim leaders in the region, with the eventual aim of creating a pact between various religious sects, to confront any attempt to sow sectarian strife in the region.

Davutoglu also met with former President Amin Gemayel, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.

Meanwhile, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed on Saturday any renewal of the national dialogue that doesn’t address the defense strategy, stressing that there will be no civil war in Lebanon.

Asked by a twitter user if the opposition will join any national dialogue if it didn’t discuss the national strategy, Hariri said “there’s no need.”

He refused to comment over accusations that his economic policies cost Lebanon a lot.

“Well I am sure people know who lies and who doesn’t, who is sincere and who isn't,” Hariri said.

Concerning the developments in Syria, he stressed that “change is imminent in Syria.”

“He (President Bashar Assad) is finished you will see,” Hariri told one twitter user.

Growing criticism of the Arab League observer mission for its failure to end violence that the United Nations says has claimed more than 5,000 lives.

The former PM confirmed that he will return soon to Lebanon.

Lebanon's opposition leader, who has been absent from the country for nearly eight months, has chosen Twitter as a comeback tool to reach out to followers.