UN aims to triple Syria observer team next week

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By Frank Jordans / AP

GENEVA: The United Nations hopes to have 30 cease-fire monitors in Syria next week and plans are already being made for the deployment of up to 300, a spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan said Friday, as France called on the international community to prepare for the possible failure of the increasingly fragile peace deal.

Seven observers are on the ground and another two will arrive on Monday, said Annan’s spokesman.

“During the course of next week we hope that those that we are seconding from missions in the area who can move quickly will be there and we will make the numbers up to 30,” Ahmad Fawzi told reporters in Geneva.

The preliminary agreement between Syria and the United Nations on the deployment of UN observers says they will have freedom to go anywhere in the country by foot or by car, take pictures, and use technical equipment to monitor compliance with the cease-fire engineered by Annan.

But the issue of using helicopters and aircraft will likely dominate discussions in the coming days, Fawzi told The Associated Press.

The larger contingent of up to 300 also still needs to be approved by the UN Security Council.

“As soon as the Security Council adopts a resolution authorizing up to 300 monitors on the ground, we will be ready to deploy very, very rapidly,” Fawzi said.

“We are preparing for the deployment because we feel that it is going to happen sooner or later because it must happen,” he added

In France, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called on the international community to live up to its responsibilities and warned that if Annan’s peace plan “doesn’t function, we have to envisage other methods.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday of failing to honor the peace plan that went into effect a week ago.

Juppe said on France’s BFM television that his country would support a US-backed proposal for a UN arms embargo and other tough measures against Syria.

The peace plan is “the last chance before civil war. … We don’t have the right to wait,” he said.

Juppe hosted US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other diplomats in Paris on Thursday to try to work out options for Syria.

Annan’s diplomacy succeeded in getting Russia to back the monitoring mission, but Syria’s ally continues to resist more forceful measures.

“The Russian position is in the process of evolving,” Juppe said without elaborating.

UN chief Ban told the Security Council on Thursday that the situation remains “highly precarious,” citing an escalation of violence including “shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces and attacks by armed groups.”

That view was echoed by Annan’s spokesman.

“The situation on the ground is not good, as we all know,” Fawzi said. “There are casualties every day. There are incidents every day. And we have to do everything we can to stop what’s going on. The killing, the violence in all its forms.”

The observers, who report to Annan daily, will have freedom to install temporary observation posts in cities and towns, to monitor military convoys approaching population centers, to investigate any potential violation, and to access detention centers and medical centers in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian authorities, the agreement says. –Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.



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