Syria’s opposition is pushing for tougher United Nations measures against the government of President Bashar al-Assad as a cease-fire brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan crumbles.
At least 20 people were killed today across Syria, the Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mail. Syria’s state- run SANA news agency said an armed group shot and killed four members of the same family in Erbin, outside Damascus. The LCC, an opposition group, reported 100 deaths yesterday, including women and children.
Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council, told Al Jazeera yesterday that “it has become obvious today that Annan’s mission is in grave danger.”
Annan has called for more unarmed UN observers to monitor the April 12 cease-fire between government forces and the opposition. An advance contingent of 12 UN monitors is in Syria, and the plan is to increase their number to 100 by the end of May. The UN Security Council authorized 300 observers.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers today that he has sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “stressing the importance of the quick deployment of the observers.” El-Arabi suggested sending UN observers who are already in the region to Syria to avoid delays, he said.
“What matters here is a cease-fire. This will not happen unless there’s enough observers,” El-Arabi said.
‘Acts of Violence and Murder’
Ghalioun, whose group is the main opposition organization in the country, said increasing the number of monitors isn’t enough. “We have to go to the Security Council and extract a resolution that will enable us to use force,” he said.
The Arab League’s meeting in Cairo is expected to call on the Syrian government to “immediately stop all acts of violence and murder,” to protect civilians and to guarantee the freedom to peaceful protests, Egypt’s Middle East News Agency reported, citing a copy of meeting’s draft resolution to be issued later today.
The statement is expected to call on the Security Council to “expedite the deployment of the monitors” in Syria, MENA said. It also asks the Syrian government not to obstruct their work, not to punish anyone who contacts them and to allow the observers to reach different parts of the country at a time they determine, it reported.
El-Arabi said today that “efforts were going on to unite the ranks” of the Syrian opposition and that there’s an agreement in principle to hold a meeting of the groups at the league’s Cairo headquarters on May 16.
Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protests that began in March 2011 has claimed more than 9,000 lives, the UN estimates.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said yesterday that France may pursue UN involvement under a provision that allows for military action. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the U.S. is considering more measures if the Syrian government doesn’t stop the crackdown, without elaborating.
Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said today that armed opposition groups have started to resort to “regional mass-terror tactics” in comments broadcast on state television.
The trend toward improving security in Syria is “very, very fragile,” Lukashevich said, adding that Russia considers as counterproductive any unilateral sanctions by the European Union against Syria.
The U.S. and EU governments stiffened sanctions against Syria on April 23. The EU sought to crimp the lifestyle of Assad and his family by banning the export of luxury goods to Syria. EU foreign ministers also put more products on a list of banned technologies that could be used by the government to suppress dissent.
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