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Accord reached for aid to besieged Homs in Syria; evacuations to begin Friday

GENEVA — The United Nations confirmed Thursday that Syria's warring sides have agreed to a temporary halt in fighting in the city of Homs so civilians can leave and a convoy of life-saving supplies can be delivered to the besieged old city district.

When the pause in fighting will take place was uncertain, but officials said it might come as soon as today — a step U.N. officials said would improve the atmosphere ahead of a second round of peace talks that are set to begin Monday among Syrian officials, opponents of President Bashar Assad and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations' special envoy to Syria.

A similar agreement had been expected during the first round of talks, which took place Jan. 24-31, but the two sides could not agree on its terms, and that failure came to dominate the sessions.

The agreement, if carried out, would mark the second accord in recent days that would allow aid supplies to reach some of an estimated 245,000 people who have been trapped between the warring sides for months.

On Thursday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees, completed its eighth straight day of food distribution inside the Yarmouk district of Damascus, where an estimated 18,000 civilians are caught between rebels, who control the district, and pro-Assad militias, which are arrayed around it.

U.N,: Speed up chemical weapons purge: The U.N. Security Council called on Syria on Thursday to speed up the removal of its most harmful chemical weapons agents from the country, expressing "growing concern" at several missed deadlines.

The Syrian government missed a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the most dangerous chemicals in its stockpile and Wednesday's deadline to give up its entire stockpile.

Information from Associated Press was used in this report.

Accord reached for aid to besieged Homs in Syria; evacuations to begin Friday 02/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:27pm]
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