Annan to brief U.N. on Syria as world powers ‘race against time’ to avoid war

According to Syrian activists, 1,122 children have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled on Tuesday to submit a new report to the Security Council on the latest development in Syria, Al Arabiya reported as the U.N. chief warned that international powers were “in a race against time” to prevent civil war in Syria.

At least 11 people have been killed by the Syrian forces on Tuesday, mostly in Homs, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists.

Annan’s report will include a comprehensive evaluation of the current situation in Syria since the launch of his peace initiative. The report will also include suggestions on the future plans and the efforts to be exerted by all the concerned parts for the main aim of ending the Syrian crisis.

Annan’s briefing, scheduled at 1400 GMT, comes amid continuing violence in the country. As many as 35 people have been killed by the gunfire of Syrian forces on Monday across the country, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists at the Local Coordination Committees.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. (Reuters)

Regime forces bombed al-Hesn Citadel by mortar shells, activists said; while three explosions were heard in Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib, followed by intensive gunfire. Security forces shot at protesters in al-Musaifera region in Deraa and in al-Mazzah in Damascus.

According to the LCC, the number of children killed since the beginning of the Syrian uprising hit 1,122. The number includes 524 children in Homs, 147 in Hama, 103 in Idlib, 103 in Deraa, 103 in Damascus suburbs, 46 in Deir Ezzor, 26 in Damascus, 15 in Aleppo and 8 in Lattakia, activists at the LCC told Al Arabiya.

Race against time

U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon warned Monday that international powers are “in a race against time” to prevent all-out civil war in Syria, where the government could use the presence of ceasefire observers to prepare a new assault.

Ban again condemned the “brutality” of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces but said attacks by opposition groups have also “escalated”, according to AFP.

“We are in a race against time to prevent full-scale civil war -- death on a potentially massive scale,” Ban said. The U.N. already estimates that well over 9,000 people have died in the 14-month uprising against Assad.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. (Reuters)

“The government continues to assault its people,” the U.N. secretary-general told the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington.

“Every day we see the most appalling images -- troops firing in city centers, innocent civilians dying, even children. Security forces are arresting and torturing people with great brutality.”

A ceasefire started on April 12 under an accord between Assad and Annan has broken down, with fighting raging on between government forces and anti-Assad rebels.

There are now about 60 U.N. ceasefire observers in Syria and the full force of 300 sent by the U.N. Security Council is expected to be in place before the end of May, Ban added.

“This is a difficult mission at a difficult time,” he said.

“We know the security risks to our brave U.N. observers. We know that Syrian citizens could face punishment for even speaking with them. And we know the nature of the regime, which could well use the presence of the mission to prepare further violence.”

Ban said Assad’s must government carry out Annan's six-point peace plan, including the withdrawal of troops and guns from cities, “without further delay.”

“We cannot predict how this will end,” he said. “But we do know there can be no compromise on fundamental principles of justice and human rights.”

Ban earlier slammed the Syrian government for holding a national election on Monday despite the ongoing violence and for failing to involve all parties.

“Only a comprehensive and inclusive political dialogue can lead to a genuine democratic future in Syria,” the U.N. chief said in a statement released by his office. “These elections are not taking place within that framework.”

Annan and Ban have said there is evidence that observers have reduced violence in places where they are present.

But the United States has warned it could call for the U.N. observer mission to be halted before the end of its 90-day mandate. Other western nations also have doubts that the Assad government will respect the envoy's peace plan.

“We will be carefully looking for signs that Annan can see the peace plan is cracking,” one western diplomat said.

Another U.N. diplomat said it was “difficult to see whether the opposition will step up for talks when they are being shot, shelled and tortured.”

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