UN Decision Looms on More Monitors for Syria

Posted April 21st, 2012 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations is to consider more observers in Syria, where a U.N. brokered cease-fire is showing signs it could unravel.

The Security Council is set to vote later Saturday on a resolution to send 300 unarmed observers to monitor the increasingly fragile truce between the government and pro-democracy groups. The council has already approved an advance team of 30 monitors, but it appears the handful of monitors already in Syria are overmatched.

Colonel Ahmed Himiche, head of the advance group of observers told reporters Saturday he just wanted to “focus on our task.”

Less than a third of the advanced team is in place, though U.N. spokesman Neeraj Singh says at least two more observers are expected to arrive in Damascus by Monday, bringing the total to 10. And there are many places the small team has yet to visit.

Talking to reporters in Geneva, a spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan said one of those places is the central city of Homs, a flashpoint for much of the recent violence. Ahmad Fawzi said, “the observers want to to get to Homs as quickly as possible” and promised more monitors would be deployed rapidly to key areas if the U.N. Security Council approves the larger mission.

Amateur video uploaded to the Internet by activists in Syria claimed to show more shelling of Homs and other areas Friday, while other video showed thousands of protesters taking to the streets in Homs and Idlib following Friday prayers.

Rights groups said Syrian forces killed at least 11 civilians, including several in the Homs region. State-run media reports said at least 18 security force members were also killed, including 10 in an explosion near the Golan Heights region. The government blamed “armed terrorists” for most of the attacks.

Diplomats are increasingly voicing concern the violence is only going to grow and that the humanitarian crisis will worsen. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe went as far as to warn on Friday that Syria is on the verge of descending into civil war.

Hivin Kako, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA the Annan peace plan is Syria's last hope.

She said, “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.”

Meanwhile, 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.

The U.N. estimates that Syria's crackdown on the revolt has killed more than 9,000 people.