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Clinton pushes for greater action on Syria

The US has increased the supports it is making available to the Syrian opposition.

Image: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Press Association Images

IN SOME STRONG remarks made in France yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for greater pressures to be put on Syria’s president Bashara Assad as he continues his violent campaign against opponents, despite the promise of a ceasefire.

She said the world continues to be frustrated and outraged by what is occurring in Syria.

Clinton noted that although the evidence is currently stacked against it, she hopes that Kofi Annan’s UN mission and six-point plan will “take root”. However, this requires the complete acceptance of the Syrian government.

A monitoring mission is due to be sent to Syria with Annan requesting the deployment of up to 300 unarmed monitors. Pushing for Security Council support to intervene, Clinton recognised that such a move could put their lives at risk if increased violence persists.

“So we’re in a dilemma,” she said. “We think it’s important to get independent sources of observation and reporting on the ground, but we do not want to create a situation where those who are sent to do this mission themselves are subjected to violence.”

So we need to continue to work and move toward a Security Council authorisation so that we have the authority to proceed when the times are right.

Although she stopped short of calling for military intervention, Clinton outlined Turkey’s increasing concerns that the violence will seep over its border.

We have to keep Assad off balance by leaving options on the table. And Turkey already has discussed with NATO during our ministerial over the last two days the burden of Syrian refugees on Turkey, the outrageous shelling across the border from Syria into Turkey a week ago, and that Turkey is considering formally invoking Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which triggers consultations in NATO whenever the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.

Tougher actions, including UN travel and financial sanctions and an arms embargo, should be used to push for Syrian compliance, added the Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, the US has plans to increase its support for the Syrian opposition, expanding communications and considering the establishment of an “assistance hub” in Turkey which will help coordinate and distribute help to opposition groups within Syria.

Her speech yesterday seemed to foreshadow US requests for a contingency plan if Annan’s peace plan fails.

Earlier, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that Syria was not honouring the agreed ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect last week.

Despite the government’s agreement to cease all violence, we still see deeply troubling evidence that it continues. The past few days, in particular, have brought reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces and attacks by armed groups.

About 1 million people require humanitarian assistance within Syria, while 230,000 have been displaced. The UN believes that more than 9,000 people have died since violence began in Syria as part of the wider Arab Spring movement last March.

Observing operation

If agreement is reached between the Assad regime and the UN, between 250 and 400 unarmed observers could be sent to Damascas but they will have access to any part of the country.

The observers will also be allowed travel by foot or car, take pictures and use technical equipment to monitor compliance. The use of helicopters and aircraft is still under discussion, according to reports.

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The Friends of Syria group has said that Annan’s plan is the “last hope” to resolve the crisis, aware that other actions will be vetoed at Security Council stage.

A team of seven monitors are currently on the ground in Syria.

This morning, Al Jazeera carries reports of violence in Homs where troops are said to have shelled rebel areas of the city. Three people have died  there, while the Local Co-ordination Committees claimed three others died in the Yabroud suburb of the capital city.

There were also clashes between government troops and rebels in Deir al-Zor in the east.

Protests against the Assad regime are expected in Syria this afternoon after midday prayers.

UN chief: Syrian government failing to comply with peace plan>

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