Syria Officials Deny Civil War, Despite U.N. Comments

06/13/2012 06:13 am ET | Updated Aug 13, 2012

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BEIRUT, June 13 (Reuters) - Syria's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous's comments that Syria is in a civil war was an unrealistic description of the conflict.

"Talk of civil war in Syria is not consistent with reality... What is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that choose terrorism," Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.

On Tuesday, Ladsous said the 15-month-old conflict in Syria, which started with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, had grown into a full-scale civil war in which Damascus was attempting to recapture large swathes of urban territory it has lost to the armed opposition.

"Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas," he said.

It was the first time a senior U.N. official has declared that the Syrian conflict is a civil war. Civil war status would present legal implications for Assad and rebel fighters in terms war crimes and compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Damascus sees the conflict as a foreign-backed conspiracy against its legitimate rule and asked on Wednesday that "U.N. officials and Ladsous in particular deal objectively and impartially and accurately with current developments in Syria."

"Syria has not descended into civil war, but is witnessing a struggle to eradicate the scourge of terrorism and revenge killing, kidnappings and ransom, bombings and attacks on state institutions and the destruction of public and private property and other brutal crimes," the Arabic-language statement said.

The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 10,000 people since the start of the uprising. Syria says Islamist militants have killed 2,600 soldiers and police. (Reporting by Oliver Holmes)

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