Chief Monitor: UN Team Repeatedly Targeted in Syria

Posted June 19th, 2012 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The head of the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria, General Robert Mood of Norway, told the Security Council Tuesday his team was repeatedly targeted by gunfire before his decision to suspend operations in the country.

U.N. diplomats present at the briefing on Syria said General Mood told the 15-member council that his 300-strong unarmed team of observers had been targeted by indirect fire on a daily basis and at least 10 times by direct fire and that at least nine U.N. vehicles had been damaged.

Mood and U.N. peacekeeping chief Harve Ladsous said the U.N. mission in Syria was halted on Saturday due to escalating violence. The decision was the clearest sign yet that a peace plan brokered by U.N./African Union envoy Kofi Annan has collapsed.

In Los Cabos, Mexico, meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday he would use his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao to seek Beijing's cooperation in finding a way to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The two presidents were meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit.

Mr. Obama also discussed the situation in Syria with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the summit.

China and Russia are long-time allies of Syria and have shielded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from U.N. sanctions sought by Western and Arab powers who oppose his 11-year autocratic rule.

Earlier Tuesday, Britain said a Russian ship believed to be carrying arms to Syria turned back after a British insurance company cancelled its insurance.

The move effectively halted the vessel, tracked off the northwest coast of Scotland, from continuing to its destination unless another insurer agreed to cover it. An EU arms embargo on Syria prevents insurers from covering the ship.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament Tuesday the ship appears to have turned back toward Russia.

Meanwhile, Syria says it is ready to act on a U.N. appeal to evacuate civilians from the central city of Homs, which government forces have bombarded since early June to try to crush a 15-month anti-government uprising.

General Mood has appealed to Syrian government and rebel forces to allow women, children and the wounded to flee Homs and other combat zones. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said dozens of wounded people are stuck in Homs and other rebel-dominated areas without medicine or doctors.

The Security Council agreed to send the observer mission to Syria in April to monitor government and rebel compliance with a U.N.-backed cease-fire agreement, but the truce never took hold. The observers' 90-day mandate expires in mid-July.