Annan says up to 300 observers needed in Syria


UNITED NATIONS – UN-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan’s deputy told the Security Council yesterday that the swift deployment of more observers to Syria was needed despite continued risks and persistent violence, said council diplomats.

A handful of observers have arrived in Syria after the Security Council authorised the deployment of 30 on Saturday.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has outlined plans for an “initial deployment” of up to 300 observers, but this would require further authorisation.

Mr Annan’s deputy, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told the 15-nation council that deploying more unarmed military observers “would have a potential to change the political dynamics on the ground”, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. Other envoys confirmed the remarks.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, president of the Security Council this month, said some council members voiced reservations about rushing to approve an expanded mission and were concerned about the failure of Damascus to halt the violence, return troops to barracks and withdraw heavy weapons.

Syria and the United Nations signed a preliminary agreement yesterday on the terms of a ceasefire monitoring mission, but the deal skirted the vital issue of air assets, Edmond Mulet, deputy head of the UN department of peacekeeping operations, told the council.

Mr Mulet said Syria and the UN had agreed to sort out the issue later, though he emphasised that use of aircraft “will be vital to the mission” a diplomat said.

Syria has dismissed any need for UN aircraft, though Mr Ban told reporters helicopters and other military hardware would be necessary and this would be discussed more closely with Syrian authorities. “In view of the vastness of the country and in view of the very limited number of our monitoring team, we will have to have a very efficient and effective means of mobility,” Mr Ban said.

He added that Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Ja’afari had reiterated his government’s determination to provide full support and co-operation to the observer mission, which will be called the UN Supervision Mission in Syria.

In a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday, Mr Ban said Syria had not fully complied with Mr Annan’s six-point peace plan, but still outlined plans to deploy up to 300 observers for three months to supervise a fragile truce between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters seeking to oust him. – (Reuters)