U.N. aid chief Amos in Syria, heading to Homs

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 07, 2012 7:13 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos held talks in the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday and is on her way to the devastated city of Homs, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

"She just completed a meeting with the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and is now en route to Homs," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Reuters in Geneva.

Amos, who was denied entry to Syria last week, arrived in the country on a three-day mission to try to persuade authorities to grant unhindered access for aid workers to deliver life-saving assistance to civilians.

The world body has been shut out of Syria, where the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the only international agency allowed to deploy aid workers and provide food and medical supplies.

But Syrian authorities continue to bar the ICRC from the embattled Homs district of Baba Amr, where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced alarm at grisly reports that government forces have executed, imprisoned and tortured people.

An ICRC aid convoy has been waiting to enter Baba Amr since last Friday, a day after rebel fighters fled the area following nearly a month of shelling by Syrian forces.

Syrian tanks bombarded opposition areas in Homs overnight and the Red Cross tried for a sixth day to gain access to Baba Amr, a fallen rebel stronghold where activists have reported bloody reprisals by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Louise Ireland)