UK & World News
Annan: Syria 'Bleak' Amid Syria Death Reports
Kofi Annan has told the United Nations that the situation in Syria is "bleak" and expressed alarm at reports that troops are still carrying out military operations.
Mr Annan expressed particular concern at reports that security forces entered the central city of Hama on Monday after UN observers departed, firing automatic weapons and killing a significant number of people.
"If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible," Mr Annan said.
The joint UN-Arab League envoy said the speedy deployment of the 300-strong observer force authorised by the UN Security Council last Saturday is "crucial" to verify what is happening on the ground.
The observer force also would provide a basis for moving toward a ceasefire by the government and opposition, he said.
Mr Annan briefed the security council by video-conference hours after his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said that satellite imagery and other credible reports show that Syria has failed to withdraw all heavy weapons from populated areas as part of an agreed ceasefire deal.
Mr Fawzi also cited credible reports that "people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed".
Meanwhile, Syrian troops heavily shelled a suburb of Damascus on Tuesday, hours after rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al Assad killed three regime officers in separate attacks around the capital, according to both activists and state media.
A bomb hidden in an army truck also exploded in the capital, wounding several people.
Mr Annan echoed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called the current situation "unacceptable" and urged the government to immediately implement his six-point peace-plan, which would culminate with Syrian-led talks to a peace settlement.
"A cessation of violence and action on the six points is vital to sustain a political process," Mr Annan.
"Equally, a credible political process is required if we are to sustain any long-term calm on the ground."
He welcomed the council's initial authorisation of a 30-member advance team of UN observers, and its approval of a 300-strong UN observer team.
He also called for their speedy deployment, with Mr Ban's approval, to get "eyes and ears on the ground" with the ability to move freely and swiftly.
Only 10 observers are currently on the ground, and Mr Annan said two were in Hama on Tuesday.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the security council that up to 100 observers would be in Syria in a month, according to a diplomatic source. It normally takes many months to fully deploy a UN mission.
US Ambassador Susan Rice said that "several council members expressed their scepticism on the Syrian government's intentions and the veracity of statements contained in the Syrian foreign minister's letter".
And Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country is Syria's most important ally, voiced concern at the claims of Syria not withdrawing its troops and heavy weapons.
"If this is the case, if the promise in the letter has not really been carried out, that would mean it is a breach of the promise they have made on Saturday," Mr Churkin said.
"I'm certainly going to bring it to the attention of Moscow that there is an issue that needs to be looked at."