Clashes across Syria as Kofi Annan to brief UN 

 

Government and opposition forces clashed across Syria today as international envoy Kofi Annan prepared to brief the UN Security Council on the progress of his mission to ease the Syrian crisis.

A new flurry of high-level diplomacy has failed to stop the violence in a year-old conflict the UN says has killed more than 9,000 people. 

Today, more than 70 countries, including the United States, pledged to send millions of dollars and communications equipment to opposition groups inside Syria, signaling a growing belief that diplomacy and sanctions alone will not end the repression and push Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. 

Participants at an international diplomatic conference in Istanbul yesterday said Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are creating a fund to pay Syrian rebels fighters known as the Free Syrian Army and soldiers who defect from the regime. One delegate described the fund as a "pot of gold" to undermine Assad's army. 

Participants confirmed the Gulf plan on condition of anonymity because details were still being worked out. One said the fund would involve several million dollars a month. It is said to be earmarked for salaries, but it was not clear whether there would be any effort to prevent the money from being used to buy arms, an issue that could prompt stronger accusations of military meddling. 

As the joint UN-Arab League envoy, Annan has been pushing for a cease-fire to allow all sides to discuss a political solution. The Syrian government has said it accepts his plan while rejecting some of the steps it requires, like withdrawing its troops from towns and cities. 

The opposition has also rejected dialogue with the regime, saying it has killed too many people to be part of a solution to the crisis. 

Violence continued in Syria today.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces killed two people in arrest raids in the northern Idlib province. In the south, rebels killed two soldiers in attacks on checkpoints, the group said. 

In the northern city of Aleppo, explosives stashed in a kiosk blew up, killing one person. 

Activists' claims could not be independently verified. The Syrian government rarely comments on specific incidents and bars most media from working inside the country. 

Syria's uprising began in March 2011 as part of the Arab Spring with peaceful protests calling for political reforms. Assad's regime sent tanks, snipers and thugs to try to quash the revolt, and many in the opposition have taken up arms to defend themselves and attack government troops. 

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