UN, Syria Agree to New Framework for Peace Plan

Posted April 19th, 2012 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Syria's government and the United Nations have agreed on a plan for implementing a peace agreement brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan said the agreement outlines the role of an advance team of observers in Syria as well as provisions for monitoring the week-old cease-fire between government and opposition forces.

The spokesman said mediators are holding talks with opposition representatives on a similar agreement.

The U.N. is discussing possibly widening a monitoring mission which is evolving amid violence that has continued despite the declared cease-fire.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council on Thursday to expand the number of monitors in Syria from about 30 to 300.

Mr. Ban said the move would not be without risk because the situation in Syria remains “highly precarious.” He cited recent reports of violence, including government shelling in civilian areas and attacks by armed opposition groups.

Germany's U.N. ambassador, Peter Wittig, expressed reservations about increasing the number of monitors in Syria, saying the Security Council must first make sure that conditions are right in the country before sending in a larger force.

Rights activists say Syrian government troops and army defectors clashed in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Thursday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the fighting left one person dead and several injured. The group also reports loud explosions and intense shelling in the flashpoint city of Homs.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Arab and European foreign ministers attending a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris on Thursday to support the Syrian opposition movement.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told the group a failure of Mr. Annan's plan would could mean “civil war” in Syria. Reuters news agency says a draft communique from the group says Mr. Annan's mission is “fragile” but represents a “last hope” for Damascus.

U.S. Defense Department leaders are briefing a House of Representatives committee on the unrest in Syria while a Senate panel is hearing testimony from Middle East experts.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the Syrian government's violence against the opposition “brutal and devastating.” He said the U.S. is supporting international efforts to curb the violence in several ways, including providing direct non-lethal support to the opposition.

The United Nations says the crackdown in Syria has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.

A U.N.-backed survey on Thursday said 230,000 Syrians have been displaced within the country since the onset of the violence.