Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

More U.N. Monitors Ok'd for Syria Truce

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

More U.N. Monitors Ok'd for Syria Truce

Article excerpt

BEIRUT -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved increasing the number of cease-fire monitors in Syria on Saturday, and the battered Syrian city of Homs was calm for the first time in months as an advance team of those observers toured the city.

Observers had initially been denied government permission to visit Homs, which activists said has been shelled daily by government forces despite the cease-fire put in place on April 12.

The new resolution established the number of observers at 300, as requested by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But Western ambassadors put Syria on notice that the unarmed observers would stay only briefly if there was no progress toward implementing a recent peace plan negotiated under U.N. auspices.

A previous Syria resolution passed April 14 authorized only a 30- member advance team, but that number had been expected to grow to at least 250. Other than authorizing a larger monitoring group, the latest resolution basically repeated the support for the peace plan laid out in the earlier resolution.

The U.S. and other Western powers had sought to give the resolution teeth by threatening sanctions if Syria did not comply, but diplomats said those were removed in a compromise with Russia, one of the strongest backers of Syria's President Bashar Assad, who has been battling calls for his ouster for more than a year. The compromise version threatens unspecified further measures if Syria fails to implement the peace plan.

Homs had been the main exception to the wobbly cease-fire. Opposition activists said the government had delayed letting observers in because it wanted to erase evidence of war crimes, according to Reuters, and they worried the shelling would resume as soon as monitors left.

The U.N. decided to leave two observers there for the time being, said Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesman for Kofi Annan, who negotiated the peace accord.

Ammar, a lawyer and activist from Homs who was suddenly reachable via cell phone, said the cell phone network had come back to life for the first time in weeks and people were edging nervously into hard-hit neighborhoods to check on their houses. …

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