UN observer team for Syria on standby; 11 killed in clashes
GENEVA AN advance team of about a dozen UN observers was standing by to enter Syria, an official said on Friday, but the US and its European allies were at odds with Russia over a Security Council resolution approving the mission.
Meanwhile, thousands of Syrians marched on Friday to test the regime’s commitment to a UN-backed peace plan, and the fragile two-day old ceasefire was again shaken when security forces killed 11 civilians.
The observer mission is intended to monitor a cease-fire in the country, where a yearlong uprising and government crackdown is estimated to have killed more than 9,000 people. The truce, which formally took effect on Thursday, is at the centre of international envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to stop the bloodshed and launch talks on Syria’s political future.
The cease-fire has been “relatively respected” despite government troops and heavy weapons still in cities and continuing abuses, Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said on Friday. The advance team is “standing by to board planes and to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible” once the UN Security Council approves the mission, Fawzi told a news conference.
France’s UN Mission said on Twitter that Britain, the US, France, Germany, Portugal, Colombia and Morocco submitted a revised draft resolution early on Friday afternoon and were expecting a vote later in the day. This longer text spells out conditions for the deployment, including demanding that the Syrian government ensure unimpeded freedom of movement for the observers and the ability to interview anyone they want in private.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, whose country has close ties to Syria, said he submitted a short rival text. He complained earlier that the original text was too long and complicated