DAMASCUS, Syria, June 18 (UPI) -- At least 82 people were killed Monday in the Syrian military's crackdown on the Assad regime's political opponents, pro-opposition groups said.
A British insurance firm said Monday it has notified a Russian company insurance coverage "ceased automatically" on ships said to be carrying munitions to Syria.
Standard Club issued a statement saying it had ceased coverage for all ships owned by the Russian cargo line Femco, including MV Alaed, which was carrying Mi25 helicopters to Syria, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the statement said. "We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage."
The Daily Telegraph said British security officials confirmed they had notified the insurance company it would likely be a breach of European Union sanctions on Syria to provide insurance coverage for the arms shipment.
As word of mounting casualties came out of Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation while meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, Monday. They offered no new initiatives after the meeting to end the violence, which has the Middle Eastern country on the verge of civil war.
"From my perspective," the Russian leader said, "we've been able to find many commonalities pertaining to all of those issues. And we'll now further develop our contacts both on a personal level and on the level of our experts involved."
Obama said he and Putin "agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war, and the kind of horrific events that we've seen over the last several weeks, and we pledged to work with other international actors including the United Nations, Kofi Annan and all the interested parties in trying to find a resolution to this problem."
The Syrian Network for Human Rights and Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies said it had documented 79 deaths -- 30 of them in Damascus and the area around it. Casualties also occurred in Homs, Hama, Daraa, Deir Ezzo, Idleb and Aleppo, said the groups, whose figures could not be verified.
Syrian forces shelled the southern town of Tafas Monday, killing at least three people, and more than 80 tanks moved into the area, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
The opposition group said warplanes flew at low altitudes over Daeel and an explosion rocked the city, CNN reported.
Violence in Syria has escalated in recent days between pro-democracy forces and President Bashar Assad's government, aggravating an already dangerous situation for the 300 U.N. monitors in the country, said Gen. Robert Mood, who heads the monitoring mission.
The mission suspended its operation of observing a supposed cease-fire that is part of the peace plan being pushed by Annan, the U.N-Arab League envoy. The cease-fire has been virtually ignored.
"Civilians continue to be trapped by the escalating violence in Syria," Mood said in a statement Sunday. "In Homs, attempts to extract civilians from the line of fire over the past week have been unsuccessful."
Mood called on leaders of opposition and Syrian forces to let women, children, the elderly and the injured leave conflict zones, saying the U.N. mission would monitor their release.
The United Nations said Saturday it was pulling back its unarmed monitors because increased attacks limited the team's ability to observe and verify reports. The violence forced observers to end their patrols, Mood said.
Opposition activists criticized the United Nations for its decision, saying it is "unjustifiable and unacceptable," CNN said.
In Istanbul, Turkey, officials of the Syrian National Council opposition group said world leaders should take stronger action against Syria.
"We say that all options are there and must be put on the table," SNC leader Abdul Basit Sieda said. "This regime only understands the language of violence and force."
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