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Friday, 11 May 2012

U.N. Seeks More Recruits to Monitor Truce in Syria

The top United Nations Peacekeeping official said Tuesday, 1st May, 2012 that Syria remained troubled by appalling violence more than two weeks into the first deployment of cease-fire monitors there and that his organization had recruited only about half of the 300-member contingent he hoped to station in the country.
The official, Hervé Ladsous, the undersecretary for peacekeeping operations, also said Syrian authorities had not yet removed their heavy weapons from population centers, as required under the cease-fire plan, and had not granted a United Nations request to allow the monitors to use helicopters for rapid mobility in the country, where an antigovernment uprising is now in its 14th month.
Still, Mr. Ladsous said, the monitors who first began arriving in Syria in mid-April, now totaling 24, have helped to reduce some of the worst mayhem in the country simply by their presence. He also expressed confidence that a full deployment of all 300 monitors would be completed by the end of the month.
“Commitments are coming in, very solidly, but we are not yet at the 300 mark,” Mr. Ladsous said. “I think we have something like 150 solid commitments, which are already being processed. But we need more from member states.”
Mr. Ladsous spoke at a news conference at the United Nations headquarters that was intended to provide an update on the progress made since the first peacekeeping monitors were sent under the cease-fire plan negotiated by Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy from the United Nations and the Arab League.
But much of what Mr. Ladsous said appeared to reflect a lack of progress in helping to tame a conflict that has left more than 9,000 dead since March last year, when dissidents inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia first began protesting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He responded with a harsh military repression that has become more like a civil war.
“The level of violence in Syria has been appalling,” Mr. Ladsous said. He repeatedly called on all sides in the conflict “to ensure that the cessation of violence is indeed observed.”
He declined to specify whether one side or the other was more at fault, saying “the important fact is that the violations have come from both sides.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Ladsous said monitors had observed the Syrian military’s armored personnel carriers, “a number of howitzers and other military equipment” that remained in position, contravening an important element of the cease-fire plan.
Mr. Ladsous spoke as more violence was reported in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group with a network of informants in Syria, said that 10 people were killed — 9 of them from the same family — when a government mortar shell struck a village near the northern city of Idlib. Six others were killed in Homs and four in Hama, the observatory reported. It also said that 12 soldiers had died in a clash with army deserters in the eastern town of Deir el-Zour.
The government and the opposition blamed each other for assaults on Monday in Idlib and elsewhere, including a bombing aimed at the Central Bank headquarters in Damascus, with mutual accusations of subverting the United Nations peace plan. They also published divergent tolls, with government news media saying that in Idlib 9 had died and 100 had been wounded.
The human rights observatory said 20 people had died in Idlib, most of them members of the security services.

Rick Gladstone reported from New York, and Neil MacFarquhar from Beirut, Lebanon. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, and Alan Cowell from London.


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