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U.N. council to hold special meeting on Syria

By the CNN Wire Staff
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to speak Sunday on state-run media.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to speak Sunday on state-run media.
  • The meeting comes after the United Nations sent a humanitarian mission to Syria
  • Al-Assad promises political reform and rejects call from him to quit
  • President Barack Obama among those calling for al-Assad to step down

(CNN) -- The U.N. Human Rights Council is scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss allegations of human rights violations in Syria.

The special meeting comes after the United Nations sent a humanitarian mission to Syria this weekend to look for effects of President Bashar al-Assad's protest crackdown.

Al-Assad on Sunday rejected calls for his ouster and promised steps toward political reform.

Speaking on Syrian state TV a day after the U.N. mission arrived in the country, al-Assad was asked about calls from European leaders for him to step down. "What they say means nothing to us," he replied, according to a CNN translation.

U.S. President Barack Obama made the same call on Thursday, and the United States followed up by imposing new economic sanctions.

The European Union's political security committee is considering an embargo on Syrian crude oil. Oil and gas make up about a quarter of Syria's economy, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In his televised interview, al-Assad continued to deny that his military has targeted peaceful protesters, despite widespread reports from witnesses, medical officials and diplomats in the country.

The team's arrival came just days after a U.N. fact-finding mission reported having found "a pattern of human rights violations that constitutes widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity."

Humanitarian mission heads to Syria
Crackdown continues in Syria
  • Syria

The fact-finding mission's report called on the Security Council to "address in the strongest terms the killing of peaceful protesters and other civilians in Syria through the use of excessive force and other grave human rights violations; to call for an immediate cessation of attacks against the civilian population; and to consider referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court."

CNN's Arwa Damon, Kamal Ghattas, Josh Levs and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

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