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U.N. struggles for answers as Syrian truce falls apart

Syrian News Agency Sana/ Ho / EPA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the Syrian Parliament during the first parliamentary session in Damascus on Sunday. During the 70-minute speech, Assad blamed terrorists and foreign powers for the country's violence.

Following another bloody weekend in Syria, rebels said they would no longer follow a truce brokered by the United Nations, saying President Bashar al-Assad wasn’t adhering to his end of the agreement, Reuters reported.

Over the weekend, 80 Syrian troops were killed in clashes with Free Syrian Army fighters, the BBC reported, citing a UK-based activist group.

Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the U.N., was assigned to mediate the situation and has urged major powers to support his peace plan, calling it “the only option on the table.”

Pressure on the U.N. has increased in recent weeks, particularly after the U.N. found that most of the 108 people killed in Houla were killed on May 25. The United States responded to that revelation by asking a Syrian diplomat to leave within 48 hours.

On Sunday, Assad said he wasn’t responsible for the killings in Houla and that he was horrified by the massacre. He blamed rogue forces. “Even monsters do not perpetrate what we have seen," the Syrian president said.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have debated how to work with Assad -- China and Russia have been uneasy about efforts to quell violence in Syria, where about 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising began 14 months ago. Syria is one of Russia's main weapons customers, according to Reuters, and sold a large shipment of arms as recently as last week, according to Reuters.

Assad: Syria faces 'real war waged from the outside'

In an online question-and-answer session with readers, reporter Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker said it was unlikely Western forces would get involved, even if China and Russia were out of the equation. He said that China and Russia have given "someone for us to blame."

"I'm not at all sure that there's any Western appetite to go into Syria," Gourevitch said.

"When Russia and China refused to sign on to a toothless resolution condemning Assad and calling for him to step down early this year, Hillary Clinton called their action (or inaction) ‘despicable,'" Gourevitch said. “But without their resistance, we would not look more effective -- and we might look much less effective.”

Houla Media Center / EPA

A Syrian citizen group produced this image of bodies being prepared for burial following the Houla massacre of 103 people, most of them civilians, on May 25.

Clinton condemns Syria massacre: Assad's 'rule by murder' must end

Gourevitch also noted that Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, “slaughtered 10,000 people 30 years ago to crush opposition – and it pretty much worked.”

Although thousands of soldiers have deserted the Syrian army, Gourevitch said that Assad still has hundreds of thousands of fighters and a “fearsome arsenal” that includes stockpiles of chemical weapons. Further, he said, no Syrian diplomats have defected, unlike Libyan diplomats before the fall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

In a piece for The New Yorker, Gourevitch wrote about an encounter between Eli Wiesel and President Obama at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, asked Obama why, if anything had been learned from past genocides, was Assad still in power?

According to Gourevitch, Obama replied: “There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented. There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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