UN chief demands Syria withdraw weapons, troops

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Thursday that the Syrian government immediately comply with its commitment to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns.

U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Ban is "deeply troubled" about reports from U.N. military observers that military equipment and army personnel remain in populated areas in violation of Syria's pledge to pull them out.

The secretary-general is also "gravely alarmed" at reports of continued violence and killing, including shelling, explosions, and armed clashes in residential areas, Del Buey said in a statement.

He said the U.N. chief strongly condemns the continuing repression against Syria's civilian population which he says is "unacceptable and must stop immediately."

Earlier Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice condemned the Syrian government's continuing intense use of heavy weapons in the central city of Hama and elsewhere, which has resulted in a large number of civilian deaths every day.

She also condemned President Bashar Assad's government for refusing to implement international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.

Rice told reporters that a deadly explosion that flattened houses in Hama on Wednesday appears to be "the result of intense shelling" though she couldn't say this with certainty.

She reiterated that if the Assad regime continues to violate its commitments and the U.N. observer mission isn't leading to a sustained cease-fire, the U.S. will again ask the Security Council to consider sanctions against Syria.