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File photo: A UN observer and an anti-Syrian regime man in Hama city AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman

UN observers blocked from site of mass killing in Syria

Latest reports indicate that UN observers and journalists are being stopped from reaching al-Qubair where it’s reported at least 78 people have been killed.

THE CHIEF OF UN observers in Syria says his monitors have been blocked by Syrian troops from the site of a new mass killing.

General Robert Mood said in a statement that some UN patrols were also stopped by civilians in the area and that observers have been informed by residents that their safety will be at risk if they entered Mazraat al-Qubair in central Hama province.

Syrian opposition groups say pro-government militiamen killed dozens of people, including women and children, in Mazraat al-Qubair on Wednesday night, with some stabbed to death and others burned.

The exact death toll and circumstances remain impossible to confirm. Syria rejected the claims as “absolutely baseless.”

The Associated Press says it has received a picture of a deceased child, purported to be from the village of al-Qubair, but says it has been unable to verify the authenticity of the image.

A cameraman from Sky News has tweeted to say that getting to the area is proving difficult:

Meanwhile ahead of discussions on Syria, a conference of Central Asian nations has today rejected outside military intervention to end the violence there and called for a domestic resolution.

China and Russia, both attending the Beijing summit, have been seen as protecting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, blamed for a harsh crackdown on a 15-month popular uprising.

A joint statement from the 6-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization said "all violent behavior in Syria must stop" and said the group supports a broad domestic dialogue that respects Syria's sovereignty and independence.

It said the SCO members oppose military interference, unilateral sanctions and the "forced transfer of power".

Despite widespread international condemnation of its actions, Syria's government has survived through a combination of brutal repression and the political backing of Moscow. Along with China, Russia has twice blocked UN condemnations and punitive actions against the regime.

Activists say as many as 13,000 people have died in Assad's crackdown against the anti-government uprising. One year after the revolt began, the UN put the toll at 9,000, but many hundreds more have died since.

A strategy to end the conflict

The statement from the SCO, which includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, comes as international envoy Kofi Annan on will today propose tasking a group of world powers and key regional players including Iran to come up with a strategy to end the conflict.

Annan will present the United Nations with a plan for creating a "contact group" whose final proposal must be acceptable to Syria's allies Russia and China as well as the U.S. and its European allies, who insist Assad must go, they said.

There has also been talk about a meeting of key world leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Mexico later this month to discuss the growing crisis in Syria and possible next steps, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private.

The violence in Syria has worsened recently, and it is not known who is to blame for much of the bloodshed.

The government restricts journalists from moving freely, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts. The opposition blames government forces and militias that support them known as shabihas, while the government blames rebels and "armed terrorist groups

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore is meeting the British Foreign Secretary today and the ongoing violence in Syria is likely to be on the agenda.

- Additional reporting by Associated Press

Opposition claims 100 killed in new Syrian massacre>

Read all of's coverage of events in Syria>

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