Annan sending monitors to Damascus

March 16, 2012 at 5:13 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, March 16 (UPI) -- The U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to speak with "one voice" and said he is sending monitors to Damascus.

"I will be sending teams in this weekend to pursue the discussions on the proposals we left on the table," Kofi Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, told reporters after briefing the Security Council in New York, the BBC reported. He said his main objectives are an immediate cease-fire, the initiation of political dialogue and access for humanitarian organizations.

Annan, who met last weekend with Syrian President Bashar Assad, said the international community must avoid "miscalculations" that could lead to "escalation" of the conflict, Voice of America reported.

"We need to handle the situation in Syria very, very carefully," he said.

Syria said it is prepared to cooperate with Annan but added it will not waiver in its battle against "terrorists."

Meanwhile, gunfire and explosions were heard in Syrian cities Friday. Opposition activists said security forces were making arrests in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor and shot at least one civilian, CNN reported.

Sounds of gunfire or explosions also were heard in areas of suburban Damascus, activists said.

At least 46 people were killed across Syria Thursday, 37 of them in Idlib province, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

The United Nations said more than 8,000 people have died in the conflict that began a year ago this week. Opposition activists said the toll topped 9,000 and the victims were mostly civilians.

Officials of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said they would go on a Syrian government-led assessment mission to provinces including Homs, Hama, Tartous, Latakia, Aleppo, Rif Damashq and Daraa to assess humanitarian needs.

"There is no time to waste," said Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian leader. "It is increasingly vital that humanitarian organizations have unhindered access to identify urgent needs and provide emergency care and basic supplies."

In Homs, one resident reported shelling for the seventh straight day Friday.

"Thousands have fled to other city districts and nearby villages and towns," Abu Mousab told CNN. "What we fear the most is the sporadic shelling."

Assad's regime has blamed the violence on "armed terrorist groups" and said it has popular support for its actions.

Independent confirmation about reports of casualties or attacks in Syria is difficult because the government severely restricts access for international journalists.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to the violence, saying, "The status quo in Syria is indefensible."

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