Vote extends UN Syria mission


The UN Security Council voted unanimously today to briefly extend a monitoring mission in Syria for 30 days, keeping alive a key part of international envoy Kofi Annan's faltering plan to end the 16-month conflict that has killed thousands of people.

Despite deep divisions over how to deal with the crisis in Syria, the Security Council backed Mr Annan's peace plan and agreed in April to deploy 300 unarmed observers for an initial 90 days to help implement his six-point strategy to end the fighting.

But the 15-member council has been paralysed when it comes to taking stronger action - including threatening sanctions – against Damascus.

Russia and China have blocked three Western-backed attempts to pressure Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and end the conflict that began as peaceful pro-democracy protests.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said today the council has hit a "substantive dead end" on Syria and that Washington was looking outside the world body for ways to tackle the crisis. She described the resolution to extend the UN Syria mission, known as UNSMIS, as simply an exit plan.

With little progress made in the five months since Mr Annan was appointed by the United Nations and the African Union to try to end the Syria crisis, the former UN secretary general had asked the Security Council last week to back up his plan with "clear consequences" for non-compliance by both sides.

He voiced his disappointment with Security Council yesterday, saying it had failed to take "strong and concerted action" on Syria after Russia and China vetoed a resolution that threatened Damascus with sanctions.

A spokesman for Mr Annan declined to comment on the mission's extension.

Russia and China support each other on the Security Council to protect their respective allies from interference. Russia is an ally and major arms supplier to Syria, which is also home to Moscow's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union.

"We hope that the double veto yesterday will not put the Annan plan in peril," Germany's UN ambassador, Peter Wittig, said after the vote.

"It is still the basis for all our efforts to find a diplomatic, political solution to the crisis. With the extension, the mission has another chance - maybe the last chance - to monitor the Annan plan, despite grave risks on the ground," he said.

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