UN mission in Syria threatened as 67 killed in recent clashes (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By DPA and Avi Issacharoff 04/18/12)
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At least 67 people were killed in Syria on Tuesday, activists said,
with the continued violence threatening the future of a United
Nations observer mission overseeing a peace plan.
"There are many obstacles, and the Syrian government is not helping
to ease them off, which delays the movement of the team to prepare
the ground for the larger batch of observers to arrive in Syria," a
western diplomat based in Syria told DPA, on condition of anonymity.
The head of the five-member team in Syria, Moroccan Colonel Ahmed
Himmiche told reporters in Damascus that the mission "is not easy and
it will require coordination with all sides."
According to Damascus-based UN spokesman Khaled al-Masri, "the team
will continue talks with Syrian officials Tuesday and will not move
out of the capital."
The UN Security Council has demanded full access for the team, but
there are fears that the government will try to hinder the mission by
forcing observers to travel with government minders.
The Arab League earlier this year pulled out an observer mission over
Representatives of the Syrian opposition meeting in Moscow said they
were skeptical about the peace plan of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi
"It is not the best option, but the lesser evil," said Haitham Manna
from the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change. He
said that a dialogue with the leadership in Damascus was almost
impossible. Manna said: "Al-Assad has made Syria a slaughter house."
Under Annan´s plan, Damascus was to withdraw its troops and heavy
weapons from restive areas across Syria after a ceasefire and start a
dialogue with the opposition.
In Luxembourg, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked the
European Union if it could put planes and helicopters at the disposal
of the observers to enhance the "mobility of the mission."
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called Tuesday for international
sanctions against Syria to be strengthened, saying measures already
in place were hitting the mark.
Speaking at a working meeting in Paris to assess the effectiveness of
the sanctions Juppe said: "We must keep up pressure on the Syrian
regime. That means reinforcing sanctions, which have an impact on the
Though the level of violence Syria has dropped since the truce took
effect on April 12, government forces have continued shelling
The Local Coordination Committees, which documents violence on the
ground, said that 35 people were killed in the northern province of
Idlib, most of the bodies were for people who are believed to have
been killed in shelling on Monday, but were recovered and identified
Troops and rebels clashed in the southern province of Daraa, near the
Syrian-Jordanian border, opposition activists said. Activists said
six people were killed in Daraa. Others were killed in the central
provinces of Homs and Hama.
"The fighting is concentrating in an area called al-Jaat and Basr al-
Harir. The government forces are trying to storm the area where
rebels have strongholds, but all their attempts have so far failed,"
Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights, told dpa.
Russia, Syria’s main ally, criticized "foreign forces" as an obstacle
to peace efforts in Syria and called for speeding up the deployment
of the UN mission.
"There are countries and external forces that are not interested in
the success of the current efforts by the UN Security Council, which
have been trying to replace the (council) with various informal
formats, such as groups of Syria´s friends, persuading the opposition
not to cooperate with the government in any matter, including
measures to enforce a truce," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said,
according to the Itar-Tass news agency. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz
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