U.N. votes to send Syria monitors, killings continue

Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:27pm EDT
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By Louis Charbonneau and Oliver Holmes

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Russia and China joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to authorize deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers to monitor Syria's fragile ceasefire as activists reported more deaths in the country and renewed shelling of Homs.

The resolution by the 15-nation Security Council is the first it has approved since the anti-government uprising in Syria began 13 months ago.

Moscow and Beijing twice vetoed council resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's assault on protesters opposed to his rule that has killed thousands of civilians.

A spokesman for U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan had said on Friday that the first group of observers was on stand-by and ready to fly to Syria as soon as the council approved their deployment. Annan is planning for an observer force that will have up to 250 monitors.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement released after a meeting in Geneva said the Syrian government had the prime responsibility to stop the violence and withdraw its forces from urban areas in line with Annan's peace plan.

"The Secretary-General reiterated that it is the government of Syria which has the primary responsibility to stop the violence and withdraw its forces," the statement said.

Opposition activists said at least six people were killed in Syria on Saturday and also reported the first shelling, in the city of Homs, by forces loyal to Assad, since the U.N.-Arab League-brokered ceasefire took effect three days ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed during a funeral march in Aleppo, one by shelling in Homs and a sixth succumbed to wounds inflicted by torture in the central town of Rastan, straddling the Damascus-Aleppo road.   Continued...

Demonstrators, with the Syrian opposition flags, protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad after Friday prayers in Al Qasseer city, near Homs April 13, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout