U.N. could approve Syria monitors Friday, envoys say

By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau Updated at 2012-04-12 17:41:02 +0000

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council could approve on Friday a resolution to send unarmed U.N. observers to Syria to monitor a fragile ceasefire in the 13-month conflict that has brought the country to the brink of civil war, diplomats said.

U.N. Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan has called for 200 to 250 unarmed U.N.-mandated observers to monitor the ceasefire. The Security Council is due to meet later on Thursday to discuss a draft resolution to approve the monitoring mission.

"We hope that even tomorrow we might adopt a Security Council resolution on the deployment of that advance group of monitors," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

"The full-fledged mission will take some time to deploy ... If we are able to put 20 or 30 monitors (there) early next week, very good. If we are able to put more in the next few days that's even better," he said.

Syrian troops held their fire after the deadline passed on Thursday for the U.N.-backed ceasefire, but troops and heavy weapons were still deployed in Syrian towns and cities in defiance of Annan's plan.

Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year, according to a U.N. estimate. Damascus says rebels have killed more than 2,600 soldiers and security personnel.

Annan briefed the 15-nation Security Council on Thursday about the situation in Syria.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said that "eight violations took place this morning by the armed groups."

Ja'afari said that Syria is committed to cooperating with Kofi Annan and fulfilling his peace plan, adding that Damascus had already complied with calls to withdraw troops from Syrian towns. He said others inside the country and abroad should comply with Annan's peace plan as well.

Withdrawing troops from Syrian towns and cities is just as important as the ceasefire, China's U.N. envoy Li Baodong said.

"We fully support Kofi Annan's six-point plan and we believe the ceasefire is very important - as is also pulling troops out of the towns and cities by the Syrian government ... very, very important," Li said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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