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Syria's first lady urged to help stop bloodshed

The wives of the British and German ambassadors to the United Nations released a video Tuesday urging the wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop being a bystander and speak out to demand that her husband stop the violence now.

The video asks viewers to sign an online petition to Asma Assad asking that she take a risk and "stand up for peace for the sake of your people."

Huberta von Voss-Wittig, wife of Germany's U.N. ambassador, Peter Wittig, and Sheila Lyall Grant, wife of Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said in a letter accompanying the video that as a woman, wife, mother, champion of women's equality, and formerly vocal female Arab leader, "she cannot hide behind her husband."

"Her public voice is needed," they said, noting that many female victims of the continuing violence have taken the risk to speak out and stand up for their freedom.

"We are asking Asma Assad to take a risk, too, and to say openly: 'Stop the bloodshed, stop it right now,' " Voss-Wittig and Lyall Grant said.

Before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the Assads were often noticed driving and riding bicycles in Damascus with their three children.

Asma Assad played a key role in shoring up the image of the authoritarian regime, which the Assad family has controlled for four decades.

She was the subject of flattering profiles in Vogue and other fashion magazines. In 2009, Britain's top-selling tabloid, the Sun, introduced its readers to the "sexy Brit" who was "bringing Syria in from the cold."

But as Syria's conflict worsened, the first lady has become an object of contempt for many, an image fueled by a trove of emails published in February by London's Guardian newspaper purported to be from the private accounts of Bashar and Asma Assad.

They revealed the first lady shopping online for crystal-encrusted Christian Louboutin stiletto shoes, expensive jewelry, custom-made furniture and other luxury goods as violence swept the country.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others stood by the U.N.-negotiated truce Tuesday, saying the violence is sporadic and that Assad's regime has lessened its assaults. Even with dozens reported dead over the last two days, especially in the city of Homs, the world powers struggling to stop Syria's bloodshed were reluctant to declare the cease-fire dead.

"That process needs to play itself out before we judge it a success or a failure," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Ban, speaking in Luxembourg, said that there has been "sporadic" violence taking place but that "we think that the overall cessation of violence has been generally observed."

However, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that "the situation is not improving. The violence is continuing, the bombardments, particularly in Homs, seem to be increasing, and the conditions that one would want and need to see for the effective deployment of the balance of the monitors are not at present in place."

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