UN Approves 300 Member Observer Mission to Syria

Posted April 21st, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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The U.N. Security Council has authorized the deployment of up to 300 unarmed monitors to Syria, where deadly violence has marred a week-old ceasefire between the government and opposition forces.

The council unanimously passed a resolution on Saturday that gives U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon authority to make an “assessment” on whether its safe to deploy monitors. His assessments will be based on developments in Syria that include a cessation of violence.

The Syrian government and opposition forces agreed to a cease-fire as part of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

But the government and the opposition have repeatedly accused each other of violating that agreement.

The opposition Syrian Revolution General Commission says “regime fire” killed at least four people in Syria on Saturday. Also, activists say explosions rocked a military airport near the capital.

Meanwhile, the government said “armed terrorists” planted an explosive device near a pipeline in the eastern Deir el-Zour province on Saturday. The government has blamed armed groups for a string of attacks against security forces over the past few days.

The Security Council had already approved an advance team of 30 monitors but analysts say many more observers are needed to carry out the U.N. mission.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency says monitors visited the flashpoint city of Homs, on Saturday, where they met with the regional governor and toured several neighborhoods.

The Homs region has been the site of intense government shelling for more than a week but activists say the city was quiet Saturday.

The U.N. estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's more than year-long crackdown on dissent.

Hivin Kako, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA the cease-fire and peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan is Syria's last hope.

“This is the last chance to save the country and to move forward towards democracy and a transitional period in a peaceful way. Otherwise, the country will be dragged into a war.”

Diplomats are also trying to muster relief for the growing number of Syrians in need. But the operations director for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs admitted even that has been difficult.

John Ging said, “what we have today is we have a forum where not everybody agrees on everything but where everybody does agree on one thing, and that is the imperative for humanitarian action.” He said the need for medical supplies and food assistance have become paramount, especially in areas that have seen the most fighting.