More UN Observers Needed ‘Quickly’ in Syria

Posted April 29th, 2012 at 6:40 am (UTC-5)
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The U.N. says it is in dire need of more peace observers to deploy quickly in Syria.

The mission has so far deployed about a dozen permanent observers to several towns throughout the country, far fewer than the 300 approved by the Security Council.

U.N. spokesman Neeraj Singh said Sunday in Damascus it is “a matter of utmost urgency” for the U.N., and all efforts must be made to make sure observers are “on the ground as quickly as possible.” He made the comments hours ahead of the expected arrival of Norwegian peacekeeper Major-General Robert Mood to take charge of the U.N. observer mission.

The international body now has observers in Homs, Hama, Daraa and Idlib. The monitors are struggling to promote a peace plan under which a cease-fire is to lead to talks by all sides on a political solution to the country's 13-month war.

The Syrian government and opposition activists have traded accusations of deadly violence.

Clashes between government troops and rebel soldiers continued in the Latakia region and the outskirts of Damascus on Saturday amid reports of fresh desertions to the rebel side. Witnesses say at least 10 people were killed.

Syria's official state news agency SANA said that a loyalist military unit thwarted an attempt by armed rebels “trying to infiltrate from the sea” in Latakia.

In neighboring Lebanon, the country's navy intercepted a ship that was reported to by carrying weapons from Libya to Syrian rebels. Lebanese authorities removed three containers from the ship they said contained shells, rockets, grenade launchers and other matériel.

The Syrian government has complained repeatedly that weapons are being smuggled from neighboring countries to help the rebels. The rebels say that Syrian allies Iran and Russia have been arming the Syrian military.