Ban Ki-moon, March 24 2011
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Photo by AP
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Syria is perfectly capable of conducting its own transparent inquiry into the deaths of anti-government demonstrators and needs no outside assistance, Syria's UN envoy said on Tuesday.

"Syria has a government, has a state," Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters who asked about UN chief Ban Ki-moon's public call for an investigation. "We can undertake any investigation by our own selves with full transparency."

Ban said following a closed-door session with the UN Security Council that the situation in Syria has become "increasingly a grave concern" for the international community, expressing worry over the government's use of tanks against protesters.

The UN chief added that he condemned "utterly the continued violence against peaceful protesters, most particularly the use of tanks and live fire that killed and injured hundreds of people."

Ja'afari said outside the UN Security Council chambers that "we have nothing to hide." Security Council members have thus far failed to agree on a statement condemning Syria's government.

"We regret what's going on, but you should also acknowledge the fact that this unrest and riots, in some of their aspects, have hidden agendas," he said, adding that some foreign governments were trying to destabilize Syria.

Asked by reporters to name the countries that Damascus believes are behind the unrest, Ja'afari said it was "too early" to provide details.

Ja'afari was speaking after witnesses said security forces had deployed in a suburb of the capital, Damascus, and the city of Banias on Tuesday as President Bashar Assad drew international criticism for sending in tanks to crush a revolt.

The UN secretary-general has called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of people he has described as peaceful demonstrators.

Ja'afari said Assad had instructed the government "to establish a national commission of inquiry and investigation about all the casualties among civilians."

"We don't need help from anybody," he said.

UN Security Council member countries have reacted with varying levels of concern to the Syrian government crackdowns that have left hundreds dead.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice reiterated that Washington was considering the possibility of targeted U.S. sanctions against Damascus in response to the violence against protesters and she repeated an allegation that Syria was seeking Iran's assistance.

"The brutal violence being used by the Syrian government against its own people is abhorrent and deplorable," Rice told reporters after the closed-door council session.

She added the 15-nation Security Council would take up the issue of Syria again on Wednesday.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have circulated to the other 11 council members a draft statement condemning Syria's violent crackdown against protesters and urging restraint by the government, council diplomats told Reuters.

But Russia and China have reacted coolly, raising doubts about whether the council will be able to agree on a rebuke of Damascus, envoys said. There are no plans to call for UN sanctions, they added.

The two permanent veto-wielding council members have become increasingly critical of the UN-backed intervention to protect civilians in Libya. UN diplomats say that Moscow and Beijing worry the intervention aims to oust Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi.

Diplomats said the Lebanese delegation would also prefer the council not condemn Syria. Lebanon, the sole Arab council member, has had a troubled relationship with its neighbor and Syrian influence remains strong there.

Ja'afari said the Security Council should not rely on information from the press to make decisions.

"The Security Council shouldn't react to media reports," he said. "It should rely on official reports."