Annan tells U.N. Syria hasn't withdrawn heavy weapons

Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:21pm EDT
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By Oliver Holmes and Louis Charbonneau

BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Syria has failed to comply with a pledge to withdraw weapons from population centers, and towns where citizens met with U.N. truce monitors may have been attacked, international mediator Kofi Annan told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

As violence flared in the Syrian capital of Damascus, Annan told the 15-nation body "we need eyes and ears on the ground, able to move freely and quickly" to watch over the ragged ceasefire. But the head of U.N. peacekeeping said deployment was moving slowly.

Annan made clear that Syrian forces had not withdrawn heavy weapons from urban centers and returned to barracks, as they are required to under a six-point peace plan he drew up.

"The situation in Syria continues to be unacceptable. The Syria authorities must implement their commitments in full, and a cessation of violation in all its forms must be respected by all parties," Annan said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

He suggested the Syrian government was targeting people in areas where the monitors had met with civilians. He noted that he was "particularly alarmed by reports that government troops entered Hama yesterday after observers departed, firing automatic weapons and killing a significant number of people."

"If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible," Annan said. "Two observers have been stationed in Hama today."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, sent a Twitter message from inside the council where Annan was briefing via video link, saying, "targeting by Syrian regime of those speaking with U.N. monitors is outrageous but not unexpected."

Rice said that was a direct violation of two resolutions the Security Council adopted this month to authorize the deployment to Syria of 300 monitors and an unspecified number of civilians as part of a U.N. observer mission called UNSMIS.   Continued...

A pool of blood is pictured next to a damaged car after a bomb exploded in Damascus in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA April 24, 2012. REUTERS/SANA/Handout