Saturday, November 25, 2017

U.N. tentative deal calls for 300 monitors in Syria

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council reached a tentative agreement Friday night on a resolution that would expand the number of U.N. cease-fire observers in Syria from 30 to 300 and let Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon decide on their deployment based on conditions on the ground and consolidation of a cease-fire.

France's U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, said the text would be sent to capitals overnight for consideration and the council would meet at 11 a.m. today for a vote.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, expressed hope that "there's going to be a unanimous vote tomorrow." But U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, the current council president, said there is a possibility that not all 15 council members would agree to the text or have instructions from their government.

The final draft merged rival texts proposed by Russia and European council members, with compromises on both sides.

The Europeans wanted to include a threat of sanctions against Syria if it fails to withdraw all its troops and heavy equipment from cities and towns, but Russia and China oppose sanctions against President Bashar Assad's government and that provision was eliminated.

Instead, the final draft uses language from the resolution adopted on April 14 authorizing deployment of the 30-strong advance team. It expresses the Security Council's intention to assess implementation of the new resolution "and to consider further steps."

Ban accused Assad on Thursday of failing to honor a six-point peace plan drafted by international envoy Kofi Annan that took effect a week ago. Ban said violence has escalated.

In Syria on Friday, government troops fired tear gas and bullets on thousands of protesters who spilled out of mosques after noon prayers, activists said. State media reported that bombs and shootings killed 17 soldiers.

Opposition activists reported that at least 11 Syrian civilians were killed in regime shelling and other attacks Friday, the main day of the week for protests calling for the ouster of Assad.

An advance team of seven monitors did not venture out Friday.

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