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Bloody traces of massacre seen in village

A BBC correspondent has seen evidence of human remains at the village of Qubair in Syria, scene of a massacre reported on Wednesday. Paul Danahar, who was travelling with UN monitors, found buildings gutted and burnt in the deserted tiny village near the western city of Hama. It is unclear what happened to the bodies of dozens of reported victims. Violence continued across Syria, with unconfirmed reports of explosions in the capital Damascus.

The Red Cross has warned that 1.5 million people need humanitarian aid. Condemning the Qubair massacre earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon warned of an imminent danger of civil war and the international peace envoy, Kofi Annan, has said his six point peace plan is not being implemented.

The opposition blamed the Qubair massacre on militia allied to President Bashar al-Assad while the government accused "terrorists" of killing civilians. UN monitors reached Qubair on Friday, with Paul Danahar accompanying them, after coming under fire while making an initial attempt on Thursday. 'Burnt flesh' People in the area told the UN team that everybody in Qubair "had died except for a few", UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh told BBC News after visiting the village.

She said that the UN had not yet been able to establish the number of people dead or missing and were trying to compile a list with the help of local people. According to Ms Ghosheh, one house in Qubair seemed to have been hit by tank rounds as well as weapons of different calibres, including small arms.

A second house, she said, had "burnt flesh inside and... a stench of burnt flesh". Activists say government forces removed many of the bodies from Qubair but a number are said to have been buried in the nearby village of Maarzaf.

The opposition Syrian National Council gave a death toll of 78 but another organisation, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has a figure of "at least 55". State media gave a figure of nine.

The militiamen accused of the killings at Qubair are known as shabiha, and are mainly from the minority Alawite community of President Bashar al Assad. The Alawites are a heterodox offshoot of Shia Islam. The victims appear to be mostly Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of the population.


Euro crisis Germany's obstinate chancellor Angela Merkel, swimming instructor

When it comes to the euro, the German chancellor prefers self-help to help but she can be more flexible than she seems When warnings sound that the end of the euro is nigh, all eyes turn to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Germany must "assume its part" in saving the currency, says Spain's economy minister, Luis de Guindos.

If there is rescuing to be done, Germany is the obvious rescuer. Yet rather than toss out the lifebelt, Merkel offers swimming lessons. She would find this characterisation unfair. Time and again she has taken stands against bail outs only to relent. She balked at bailing out Greece and at a permanent rescue fund and she vetoed the use of bail out money to buy government bonds in the secondary market. In each case she gave in.

By July she will push through parliament the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the permanent fund she once opposed, and Europe's fiscal compact. Germany's capital contribution to the ESM will push its budget deficit from €26 billion ($32 billion) to €35 billion. Germany's potential liability, if all the money is lent and everyone defaults, could be €280 billion. But her partners want more: Eurobonds backed by all countries, more time for weak economies to meet deficit-reduction targets, direct lending to Spanish banks and a "banking union", with Europe-wide deposit insurance. Will Mrs Merkel yield on these, too? Do not count on it.


Pakistan bus bombing: At least 18 killed near Peshawar

At least 18 people have been killed in a bomb attack on a bus carrying government employees in north west Pakistan. The vehicle is said to have been taking the workers to their offices when it was hit on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar. At least 34 people are also thought to have been injured in the incident. Peshawar lies near Pakistan's lawless tribal belt - a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Hundreds have died in attacks in and around the city in recent years. No group has so far said it carried out the latest attack, but it comes a day after a bomb killed at least 15 people in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

 

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