UN cease-fire monitors to arrive in Syria amid reports of new clashes
Opposition activists, human rights NGOs say Syrian government forces shell city of rebel stronghold of Homs, killing 6.
An initial team of UN cease-fire monitors is due to arrive in Syria on Sunday evening and will be deployed on Monday, the spokesman for international mediator Kofi Annan said, amid reports of renewed clashes between opposition forces and Syrian troops.
They will be joined by at least two dozen more in coming days in line with a UN Security Council resolution adopted on Saturday authorizing their deployment, Ahmad Fawzi said.
"The first batch of six UN observers arrives tonight, they will be on the ground in blue helmets tomorrow (Monday)," Fawzi told Reuters in Geneva.
The six, who include a Moroccan colonel leading the unarmed team, will arrive from New York, he added.
"They will be quickly augmented by up to 25 to 30 from the region and elsewhere," Fawzi said.
Syrian government forces shelled the city of Homs on Sunday, resident opposition activists and a rights activist said, as the six-person advance party of UN observers was due to arrive in Syria to monitor a cease-fire meant to start four days ago.
At least six people were reported killed, and several houses were destroyed in the bombardment.
The Syrian government said on Sunday that it could not be responsible for the safety of international ceasefire monitors unless it is involved in "all steps on the ground."
Government spokeswoman and presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban said Syria reserved the right to refuse monitors, whose numbers it said will eventually rise to 250 as agreed with the United Nations, depending on their nationality.
"The duration of the work of observers and priorities of their movement will be in coordination with the Syrian government because Syria cannot be responsible for the security of these observers unless it coordinates and participates in all steps on the ground," she told reporters in Damascus. "Syria has the right ... to agree or not to agree on the nationalities of the observers," she added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in remarks made in Geneva on Saturday night, said he would make proposals by next Wednesday regarding the full observer mission, expected to number about 250.
"The Security Council will adopt the next resolution authorizing deployment of the full mission based on report from the Secretary-General next week," Fawzi said on Sunday.