Syria ceasefire imperiled as government vows crackdown

Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:51pm EDT
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By Oliver Holmes

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's ceasefire increasingly was under threat on Sunday as the government vowed a crackdown on a wave of "terrorist attacks" and its forces shelled Homs on the day the first U.N. peace monitors entered the country.

An initial team of five U.N. ceasefire monitors arrived in the capital Damascus as expected on Sunday evening, a Reuters witness said. Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesman for international mediator Kofi Annan, said the team would be deployed on Monday.

As the monitors prepared to embark on their mission, the city of Homs, one of the hotbeds of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, was bombarded by government forces at a rate of "one shell per minute", activists said.

Activist sources reported six people were killed on Sunday, and four bodies were found.

The observers are due to be joined by two dozen more monitors soon in line with a Security Council resolution adopted on Saturday authorizing the deployment of up to 30 people.

The Syrian government said it could not be responsible for the safety of the monitors unless it was involved in "all steps on the ground", said Syrian government spokeswoman and presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

She said Syria reserved the right to agree on the nationality of those participating.

Fawzi confirmed that the size of the mission could be expanded to 250, or perhaps somewhat more, contingent upon a second Security Council resolution that he expected would be discussed and adopted "before the end of next week".   Continued...

China's Ambassador to the United Nations Li Baodong votes during a Security Council meeting at the United Nations in New York April 14, 2012. The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously authorized the deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers to Syria to monitor the country's fragile ceasefire. Russia and China joined the other 13 council members and voted in favor of the Western-Arab draft resolution. REUTERS/Allison Joyce