.- Syrian rebels and officials were urged to heed Pope Benedict XVI's call for peace and dialogue, after two suicide bombings killed 55 people in Damascus on May 10.
âThe appeal made by the Holy Father on Easter Day is now more pressing than ever,â Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi announced in a May 11 statement. âIt is necessary without delay to make an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation.â
âWe cannot but express our strong condemnation and the heartfelt closeness of the Holy Father and the Catholic community to the families of the victims,â said the priest and director of the Holy See Press Office, reacting to the explosions that âbrought carnage to the streets of Damascus.â
âThese attacks should encourage all sides to boost and strengthen their commitment to implementing the Annan Peace Plan, which has been accepted by all sides in the conflict,â Fr. Lombardi stated.
He said the attacks âalso show that the situation in Syria requires a firm and joint commitment on the part of the entire international community to implement that plan and, as soon as possible, to send further observers.â
More than 370 people were wounded by the two suicide car bombs, which went off near a military intelligence building on Thursday morning. The first vehicle was detonated on a highway during the capital's morning rush hour, drawing a crowd that was soon struck by the second and larger bomb.
Response within the country followed a now-predictable pattern, with officials of the Assad government blaming the terrorist groups it says are behind the Syrian uprising. Meanwhile, some opposition figures put blame on the regime, saying it engineered the attacks to discredit them.
U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan, tasked with implementing a peace plan for the country, said none of the parties in Syria's year-long conflict would accomplish their goals by terrorizing the other side.
âAny action that serves to escalate tensions and raise the level of violence can only be counter-productive to the interests of all parties,â Annan said in statement released on the day of the bombings.
âThese abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop,â Annan declared, saying the Syrian people âhave already suffered too much.â