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UN Is Ready to Send More Observers to Syria Next Week

UN Says New Syria Observers Ready
Members of a United Nations observers team arrive at a hotel in Damascus, on April 18. Photographer: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations said it’s ready to send more observers to Syria in a week to help monitor implementation of a cease-fire agreement, as Russia and China voiced support for the mission.

The seven observers already in the country will be expanded to 30, Al Arabiya television reported, citing Ahmad Fawzi, an aide to UN envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered a truce this month between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups fighting to overthrow him. The UN will be ready for rapid deployment of a larger group of 300 monitors when the UN Security Council approves their dispatch, he said.

The cease-fire took effect on April 12 under Annan’s six-point plan to end a conflict that the UN estimates has killed more than 9,000 people since March last year. While the daily death toll has fallen since the truce, dozens of killings are still reported most days, with both sides accusing the other of breaking their commitment.

Security forces today killed seven people in the central province of Homs, one in the northern province of Idlib and a child in Douma, northeast of Damascus, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition group, said in an e-mailed statement. Al Jazeera television showed artillery attacks in Homs. A bomb blast in Suhum Golan killed 10 members of the Syrian security forces, state television said.

Russia, China

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Security Council to pass a resolution as quickly as possible authorizing a full-scale observer mission, the Interfax news agency reported. China is willing to send personnel to join the UN observer team, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in Beijing today.

Russia has counted Syria as an ally since the Soviet era, and together with China has blocked U.S.-led efforts to get tougher measures against Assad approved by the Security Council.

More than 61,000 Syrian refugees and their hosts -- Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq -- “are beginning to show signs of strain,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said today in an e-mailed statement. Children are the worst affected and show “signs of trauma and grave distress,” the agency said.

The international community hasn’t fulfilled its month-old $84 million humanitarian-aid pledge, delivering less than 20 percent of the funds to help respond to the Syrian crisis, UNHCR said. The agency was able to fund eight of the 34 organizations that sought aid.

‘Escalating Violence’

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that there are signs in recent days that the cease-fire is fraying, with “reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces, and attacks by armed groups.”

The U.S., which along with European and Arab allies is backing the Syrian rebels, is considering working with Turkey to set up an “assistance hub” on the Turkish-Syrian border to coordinate aid for opposition groups, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Paris yesterday.

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