Annan warns on Syrian civil war


UN-ARAB LEAGUE envoy Kofi Annan yesterday told the Security Council that his effort to halt the violence in Syria could be the last chance to avert civil war.

He said deployment of UN ceasefire observers had calmed the situation in some areas. Although he said the government’s armed forces are using fewer heavy weapons, the level of violence remains unacceptable.

He appealed to the government and armed groups to disarm and “give peace a chance” and urged those “with influence to support” his six-point plan. “If we send a powerful message that we are serious about this process, there is a better chance to solve this thing peacefully.” He observed that “all aspects” of his plan must be implemented before national dialogue, which all sides say they favour, can take place.

Arab League chief Nabil el-Arabi warned that if the Annan plan fails, strife in Syria could spill over into neighbouring countries.

According to the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), Deraa, Hama, Homs and Idlib were shelled as Damascus counted votes in Monday’s first multiparty parliamentary election, derided as a fraud by the domestic and external opposition.

A protest sit-in was staged outside the public prosecutor’s office in Aleppo, demanding the release of students detained during last week’s raid by security forces on Aleppo university, said the LCC.

Free Syrian Army officers based in the town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border, said their forces were using the ceasefire to arm and regroup, arguing that it is only a matter of time before government troops resume operations against them. Most of the rebels now in Qusair were driven out of Homs and Rastan by the regular army in February and March. Christians dwelling in Qusair have fled to mountain villages.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, suggested that fighting in certain areas, including Bab Amr, can be classifed as “armed conflict” where international human rights law should be applied and violations designated as war crimes. He urged UN ceasefire monitors to deploy rapidly and hoped the Annan plan will not fail. The Red Cross committee has applied for $27 million for Syria where it says hundreds of thousands need aid.