* Calls on Syria’s Assad to allow UN aid workers into Deraa
* Urges Libya to declare “immediate, verifiable ceasefire” (Adds quotes, background)
GENEVA, May 11 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria on Wednesday to halt mass arrests of anti-government protesters and to heed calls for reform.
Ban also said that U.N. humanitarian workers and human rights monitors must be allowed into the southern city of Deraa, cradle of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, as well as other cities so as to assess the situation and needs of the civilian population.
“I urge President Assad to heed the call of the people for reform and freedom and desist from the mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and to cooperate with the human rights monitors,” Ban told a news conference in Geneva.
“I am disappointed that the United Nations has not been granted access yet to Deraa and other places,” he added.
Army tanks shelled a residential district in Homs on Wednesday, said a rights campaigner in Syria’s third city which has emerged as the most populous centre of the seven-week defiance of Assad’s rule.
Ban also said he had spoken to Libya’s Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi on Tuesday and called for an “immediate, verifiable ceasefire” and a halt to attacks on civilians.
The government of Muammar Gaddafi has made several ceasefire declarations but has continued its attacks on the besieged western city of Misrata and other rebel-held areas.
“He (Mahmoudi) even suggested the Libyan government was willing to have (an) immediate ceasefire with a monitoring team to be established by the United Nations and the African Union,” Ban said.
“But first and foremost there should be an end to the fighting in Misrata and elsewhere. Then we will be able to provide humanitarian assistance and in parallel we can continue our political dialogue,” he added. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Barbara Lewis; editing by David Stamp)