U.N. Chief: Syria Violating Cease-Fire Amid Apparent Deal On Observers
In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the Syrian government is not living up to its end of the bargain on a week-old cease-fire deal.
Ban says the government has failed to keep its pledge to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities, but adds that he still thinks there is "opportunity for progress."
The Secretary General's letter comes as the U.N. and Syria apparently worked out details of an observer mission to monitor the shaky deal meant to end more than a year of bloodshed that has killed an estimated 9,000 people.
Ban has proposed 300 observers in ten teams deployed throughout the country, but Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has insisted that the number should be just 250. Kofi Annan, a U.N. envoy and former secretary general, says Thursday that the U.N. has concluded a deal on observers, but he didn't say how many.
[Ban] said while the level of violence dropped markedly when the ceasefire began, there had been an escalation in recent days, and breaches had been reported by both sides.
He also noted that there had been "no significant release of detainees", and "no substantive progress" in negotiations on humanitarian access, in reference to other aspects of Mr. Annan's six-point plan.
He said observers had been prevented from going to the city of Homs after the government cited "security concerns". But observers were allowed to visit the town of Deraa freely.
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday after a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that if Damascas did not honor the six-point deal, "additional measures have to be considered."
Also on Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called for up to 400 observers with "some robust munitions" to keep the peace, according to The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, violence continues in Syria. Rights activists quoted by the Voice of America reported:
... clashes between government troops and army defectors in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting killed one person and wounded three others.
UPDATE at 12:20 p.m.:
In a news conference in New York, Ban said today that the situation "remains highly precarious" in Syria.
"Despite the government's agreement to cease all violence, we still see deeply troubling evidence that it continues," Ban told reporters.
"The past few days, in particular, have brought reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by Government forces and attacks by armed groups," he said.
He confirmed the agreement on the observer mission had been reached in Damascus, but said the number of observers "is a subject of continuing assessment".
"Of course, we will have to get the support from the Security Council, but at this time, 300 is the number which I have requested to be authorized," Ban said.
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