Syria violence worsening as deadline nears - U.N. chief
By Erika Solomon and Louis Charbonneau
BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that Syria's conflict is deepening and attacks on civilian areas show no sign of abating, despite assurances from Damascus that it has begun withdrawing troops under an international peace plan.
Residents of at least one area under fire from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad poured scorn on the official assertions that troops were pulling back in several cities before a cease-fire which is supposed to start on April 10.
International envoy Kofi Annan, whose plan aims to end a year of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad, said that "more far-reaching action is urgently required" to silence the tanks and halt all forms of violence.
Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Ban gave a pessimistic assessment of the situation in Syria.
"Despite the Syrian government's acceptance of the joint special envoy's plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate," Ban said.
The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the conflict, which began with peaceful protests although armed rebels later began fighting back. Syria told the world body this week that 6,044 people had died, including 2,566 soldiers and police.
The Security Council agreed Thursday to a statement urging Syria to meet Annan's deadline.
Annan, a joint envoy of the U.N. and Arab League, said both the government and opposition must stop fighting at 6 a.m. Syrian time on April 12, if Damascus meets its deadline 48 hours earlier to pull back troops from cities and cease heavy weapons use in populated areas. Continued...