More deaths in Syria as France calls for action

Violence in Syria has claimed the lives of at least another 30 people as France says the UN Security Council may need to consider approving military action with the current peace plan looking increasingly likely to fail.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe says the UN-backed peace plan has been “seriously compromised” and he has joined UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in calling for a rapid increase in the deployment of more UN observers.

Mr Annan and Mr Juppe have urged the full deployment of the 300-strong observer team agreed by the UN Security Council within a fortnight, not three months.

Syrians search for survivors after Hama blast.

“Things are not going well. The Annan plan is strongly compromised but there is still a chance for this mediation, on the condition of the rapid deployment of the 300 monitors,” Mr Juppe said.

At the moment, there are only 15 observers in the country.

Mr Juppe says May 5, when Mr Annan is to present his next report on the peace process, will be a “a moment of truth”.

“The Damascus regime does not respect the commitments it made,” he said.

“Repression is continuing. Monitors cannot work on the ground. This cannot last indefinitely,” Mr Juppe said, after meeting Syrian opposition members.

If the UN mission “is not working, we cannot continue to accept the defiance of the regime” and the international community will have “to move on to other things to stop the tragedy.”

He said he hoped Russia, which has blocked some previous efforts against the Syrian regime in the Security Council, would draw the right conclusions from Syria’s efforts to block the monitors’ deployment.

Violence rages

At least 27 civilians were killed across the country on Wednesday, including in cities visited by monitors, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said at least 12 of them died and dozens more were wounded when an explosion ripped through a building in Hama.

Another activist group, the grassroots Local Coordination Committee, said the blast was caused by a rocket launched into the building and put the death toll much higher at 54, including several children.

A third activist source said the explosion may have come from inside the building, but it was not immediately possible to reconcile the varying accounts.

Four were also killed when a bus was raked with gunfire near a checkpoint in Idlib, near the border with Turkey.

Elsewhere, two civilians were killed by sniper fire in Douma, a north-eastern suburb of the capital.

It was unclear whether UN monitors, who visited Douma on Wednesday, were present before or afterwards.

Three soldiers died in clashes with armed rebel groups in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the uprising against president Bashar al-Assad.

The observatory says 300 people have now been killed since the nominal ceasefire came into effect there earlier this month.

Mr Annan has branded the bloodshed “unacceptable”.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the the Red Cross, Sean McGuire, says Red Crescent ambulances have also been targeted.

“Clearly there is continuing violence on the ground, and the Red Cross, the Red Crescent aren’t being respected as they should be,” he said.

“We have got access to some areas where we need to be but the safety and security of the volunteers is of deep concern to us.”

Source: AFP

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