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UN says Syria violence continues despite pledges to end it - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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An image grab taken from a video uploaded on youtube shows what appears to be a Syrian army tank in the northeastern city of Deir al-Zor on April 23, 2012.(AFP)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on youtube shows what appears to be a Syrian army tank in the northeastern city of Deir al-Zor on April 23, 2012.(AFP)

UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – Fighting in Syria continues despite Syrian government asssertions that it will comply with a U.N.-backed truce and has withdrawn troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns, the U.N. political affairs chief said on Monday.

More than 9,000 people have died in Syria during 13 months of fighting sparked by a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. At least 20 people were killed in shelling on Monday, activists said.

“The cessation of armed violence remains incomplete,” Lynn Pascoe, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, told the 15-nation Security Council during an open debate on the Middle East.

“Too many lives have been lost, human rights violations are still perpetrated with impunity. It is our hope that the deployment of observers will help to stop the killing and consolidate the calm,” Pascoe said.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday that authorized an initial deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria for three months to monitor a shaky truce implemented earlier this month.

But the resolution conditions the deployment of observers on a U.N. assessment of compliance with the truce, reflecting U.S. and European concerns that Damascus’ failure to halt the violence, return troops to barracks and withdraw heavy weapons from towns makes the prospects for success slim.

“We are all sober in our expectations,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who is president of the Security Council for April, told the council.

“The regime’s long track record is one of dependable deceit and deception,” she said. “Thus this U.N. mission is unusually risky and dangerous. The Syrian regime should make no mistake, we will be watching its actions day and night.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem wrote to U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the truce, on Saturday to inform him that Damascus has now withdrawn heavy weapons and troops from Syrian cities, according to Syria’s U.N. envoy, Bashar Ja’afari.

“REAL AND ROBUST CONSEQUENCES”

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told the council the situation on the ground was still of deep concern.

“The Syrian army has only misled us in terms of its withdrawal. Bombing and heavy weapons continue to be used,” he said. “No impediment to the actions of the observers, no threat to their security, should be tolerated by the council.”

Annan is due to brief the Security Council on Tuesday.

“Measures taken by the Syrian authorities to date, including on the release of arbitrarily detained persons and the respect of the right to demonstrate peacefully, are clearly insufficient,” Pascoe said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also brief the Security Council every 15 days about developments in Syria and submit to the Security Council proposals as needed for adjusting the mandate of the observer mission, to be called UNSMIS.

The U.N. Council also noted in Saturday’s resolution that the cessation of violence by the government and opposition in Syria is “clearly incomplete” and warned that it could consider “further steps” in the event of non-compliance with its terms.

The United States, Britain and France both reiterated this warning during the Security Council debate.

“Failure of the regime to meet its commitments or any attempt to hinder work of the mission must be met by real and robust consequences,” British U.N. envoy Mark Lyall Grant said.

China and Syrian ally Russia, who have twice vetoed resolutions condemning Assad’s government, said the international community needed to fully support Annan’s peace efforts and action by the Security Council.

Moscow has been critical of other bids to end the violence by groups like the 14-nation “Friends of Syria,” saying it could undermine Annan’s plan. Russian U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin also described placing sanctions on Syria as counterproductive.

A Syrian girl carrying the old national flag, adopted by the opposition movement, during an anti-regime demonstration in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa on April 22, 2012.(AFP)

A Syrian girl carrying the old national flag, adopted by the opposition movement, during an anti-regime demonstration in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa on April 22, 2012.(AFP)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on youtube on April 23, 2012 shows Syrians surrounding UN observers during their visit to Duma on the outskirts of Damascus. (AFP)

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on youtube on April 23, 2012 shows Syrians surrounding UN observers during their visit to Duma on the outskirts of Damascus. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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