Annan to Brief UN Security Council on Syria on Friday

Posted March 16th, 2012 at 12:30 am (UTC-5)
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International peace envoy Kofi Annan will brief the U.N. Security Council on Friday about his recent mediation efforts in Syria, as the crisis enters its second year with no end in sight.

The U.N.-Arab League envoy's video address is expected to be crucial to Western efforts to pass a U.N. resolution condemning the bloody crackdown on dissent by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia and China have twice vetoed resolutions condemning Syria. But Western diplomats say negotiations on a new resolution could accelerate after Annan's briefing.

The former U.N. chief earlier this week returned from a peace mission to Syria, where he outlined proposals to end the fighting, provide humanitarian aid, and begin political dialogue.

Meanwhile, the violence continued to escalate on Thursday, the first anniversary of the anti-government uprising. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 bodies were dumped in Idlib, where government forces have launched their most recent offensive against rebels. State media said Thursday troops had cleared “armed terrorists” from the northwestern city.

Rebel fighters have been in retreat throughout Syria and a movement of opposition activists has been fragmented with dissent. But Western governments have been reluctant to arm the Syrian opposition out of fear the situation could be further enflamed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used Thursday's anniversary to report that “well over 8,000 people” have died in the 12 months of protests. Mr. Ban's spokesman blamed the violence on the Syrian government's decision “to choose violent repression over peaceful political dialogue.”

The U.N. says a Syrian government-led mission will visit several besieged cities in the coming days to assess humanitarian needs. The team, which includes members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, will visit Daraa, Homs, Hama and other cities.

In a new effort, a group of 200 non-governmental organizations is teaming with celebrities and activists in a campaign to stop Syria's violence. The initiative called Unite For Syria is using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to highlight calls for international help.