UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded international action to stop the war in Syria, telling a somber gathering of world leaders Tuesday that the 18-month conflict had become "a regional calamity with global ramifications."
In sharp contrast to the U.N. chief, President Barack Obama pledged U.S. support for Syrians trying to oust President Bashar Assad -- "a dictator who massacres his own people."
MORE: Obama addresses the U.N.
Opening the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting, Ban said in his state of the world speech that he was sounding the alarm about widespread insecurity, inequality and intolerance in many countries.
Putting the spotlight on Syria, the U.N. chief said the international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control. "We must stop the violence and flows of arms to both sides, and set in motion a Syrian-led transition as soon as possible," he said.
Ban, declaring that the situation in Syria is getting worse every day, called the conflict a serious and growing threat to international peace and security that requires attention from the deeply divided U.N. Security Council.
That appears highly unlikely, however, at least in the near future.
Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions aimed at pressuring Syrian President Bashar Assad to end the violence and enter negotiations on a political transition, leaving the U.N.'s most powerful body paralyzed in what some diplomats say is the worst crisis since the U.S.-Soviet standoff during the Cold War.
Alluding to the recently circulated amateur video made in the U.S. which attacks Islam and denigrates the Prophet Muhammad, Ban said that "in recent days we have seen hate speech and violent responses that perpetuate a cycle of blind violence."
Earlier Tuesday, several bombs went off inside a school in Damascus, Syria's capital city, that activists say was being used by regime forces as a security headquarters.
Ambulances rushed to the area and an initial report on state media said seven people were wounded.
An amateur video posted online showed smoke billowing from several spots in an area near a major road. The narrator said: "A series of explosions shake the capital Damascus." The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed.
Abu Hisham al-Shami, an activist based in Damascus, told the Associated Press via Skype that the "Sons of Martyrs School" had recently been turned into a regime security center. He said government forces use the school as a base to fire mortars at rebellious neighborhoods. State-run television quoted the director of the school as saying that two bombs exploded inside in the school, wounding seven people and causing minor damage. It said the bombs were planted by "terrorists" the term that the government uses for rebels.
As Syria's civil war intensifies, rebels have increasingly targeted security sites and symbols of regime power. In July, a bombing killed four senior security officials including the defense minister and President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law. Other massive bombings have targeted the Damascus headquarters of security agencies, killing scores of people this year.
A government official in Damascus confirmed a blast in the vicinity of the school, saying there was an explosion along the highway leading to the Damascus International Airport. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said three people were wounded. It was not possible to immediately reconcile the differing casualty tolls.
Meanwhile, Syrian refugees angry over harsh living conditions in their desert tent camp have clashed with Jordanian police.
A police official says about 150 refugees hurled stones at security officers, torched a tent and attacked the offices of a Jordanian charity responsible for the camp and a Moroccan field hospital. Twenty-six policemen were injured in the violence late Monday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The charity's spokesman, Zayed Hammad, says about 1,000 refugees were involved in the protest.
Syrian refugee Abu Nawras says police fired tear gas to disperse the protest. He says the protesters demanded improved conditions, better food and education for their children.
The Zaatari camp near the Syrian border is home to about 32,000 Syrian refugees.
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