UN mission hopes fade as Syrian regime mocks peace plan

 

Beirut

The likelihood of a fully fledged United Nations observer mission being dispatched to Syria rapidly diminished yesterday as the regime continued to make a mockery of Kofi Annan's peace plan.

Hours before an advance team of monitors was due to report back to the UN Security Council, its members were forced to flee as shots rang out in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen. Opposition groups said a government sniper was responsible. No more monitors will be sent unless the ceasefire is deemed to be holding. Hundreds of anti-government protesters crowded the UN vehicles before the cars sped off after gunshots rang out, online videos showed.

The international community has been reluctant to declare the ceasefire dead – despite the bodies piling up – as the UN-Arab League envoy's six-point peace plan is seen as the last hope for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. But pressure is mounting for an alternative as the Syrian government continues to flout the ceasefire, while playing lip service to the initiative.

Speaking after meetings with his counterpart in Beijing yesterday, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, insisted the government remained committed to Annan's plan. But as he spoke mortars from army tanks continued to rain down on Homs, where 20 of the 32 inhabitants reported dead yesterday afternoon were killed.

Slogans criticising the Annan plan are now regularly chanted at daily demonstrations, and the growing frustration among ordinary people was evident yesterday on a sign taped to one of the UN cars. It read: "The butcher keeps killing, the observers keep observing, and the people keep up the revolution."

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