Clashes Across Syria as Annan to Brief UN

Posted April 2nd, 2012 at 7:10 am (UTC-5)
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Fresh violence erupted in Syria Monday between government and opposition forces as international envoy Kofi Annan prepared to brief the U.N. Security Council on his mission's progress to ease the bloody crisis.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed two people in arrest raids in northern Idlib province. The group also said rebels killed two soldiers in attacks on checkpoints in the south. And one person died in the northern city of Aleppo when explosives stashed in a kiosk blew up.

Mr. Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria, will update the Security Council in closed session Monday on the prospects for peace in the strategic, war-torn country.

On Sunday, more than 70 countries, including the United States, pledged to send money and communications equipment to opposition groups inside Syria.

Participants at the “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul said several Gulf nations are creating a fund to channel millions of dollars to the main opposition Syrian National Council to pay the salaries of rebels attempting to overthrow Mr. Assad.

Delegates said the move is aimed at encouraging more members of Mr. Assad's military to defect to opposition groups leading the year-long uprising.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the conference Washington is providing equipment to opposition activists in Syria to help them organize, remain in contact with the outside world and evade government attacks. Clinton said the United States also is creating a program to document atrocities committed during Mr. Assad's violent crackdown on the revolt.

She also announced a doubling of U.S. humanitarian aid for Syrians affected by the conflict to $25 million.

Syrian National Council chief Burhan Ghalioun urged participating nations to strengthen Free Syrian Army rebels and create humanitarian aid corridors inside the country.

Differences remained within the international coalition about whether its assistance to the Syrian opposition should be expanded from financial and non-lethal measures to the supply of weapons. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the strongest advocates of arming the rebels, but U.S., European and other Arab governments oppose such a move.

Clinton said Mr. Assad would be “mistaken” to believe he can manipulate the peace plan to buy time to crush the uprising, saying the Syrian opposition is “gaining in intensity, not losing.”

Conference host Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said if the Security Council fails to take action to stop Mr. Assad's crackdown, the international community must support what he called the Syrian people's “right to self-defense.”

But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday Iraq rejects efforts to arm the Syrian opposition and topple the Assad government because such actions could create a “wider crisis in the region.”

The Friends of Syria communique also recognized the exiled Syrian National Council as a “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people and a leading opposition “interlocutor” with the anti-Assad coalition.

Syrian state media denounced the Istanbul conference as a gathering of the “enemies of Syria.”

The United Nations said more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began a year ago.