U.N. Security Council to vote on Syria observers on Friday

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2012 6:43 AM

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council is to vote on a resolution to send an advance team of 10 to 12 observers to Syria in days to monitor a ceasefire that has been "relatively respected", a spokesman for U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said on Friday.

A larger mission of up to 250 observers would be sent later, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told a regular news briefing in Geneva. He declined to say which countries might supply staff to the mission, but said many of the likely countries already had staff in the region who could move quickly.

Fawzi said the U.N. Security Council would discuss a draft resolution on Friday, and if it voted in favor of the resolution "we can proceed with deployment without further ado", Fawzi said.

"We hope we'll have a Security Council resolution later today authorizing the advance team. The (U.N.) Department of peacekeeping operations is working around the clock to find the necessary number of troops for the full observer mission eventually.

"At the moment we have the advance team standing by to board planes and to get there, to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible."

Syria's government and opposition committed to the ceasefire agreement that began at 6 a.m. on Thursday, part of a six-point plan for peace brokered by Annan with the backing of the U.N. Security Council.

But Fawzi urged movement on the other points of Annan's plan, including the withdrawal of Syrian armed forces from populated areas, a condition that Syria was supposed to meet in the 48 hours leading up to the ceasefire deadline.

"We are worried about the operational deployment of heavy armor in population centers. They don't belong there. They didn't belong there in the first place and they don't belong there now."

"We are thankful that there's no heavy shelling that the number of casualties are dropping, that the number of refugees crossing the border are also dropping."

Annan's plan also stipulates that Syria must grant access to humanitarian aid and free movement for journalists. Foreign media have been largely unable to report on the conflict from within the country in recent months.

"We have been receiving assurance from the government that they are indeed granting numbers of visas to numbers of journalists. The last letter we received this morning listed 53 journalists who had been given visas by the Syrian authorities.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)