Satellites said to show Syria not abiding by truce

JOHN HEILPRIN Associated Press Published:

GENEVA (AP) -- Satellite imagery and other credible reports show that, despite its claims, Syria has failed to withdraw all of its heavy weapons from populated areas as required by a cease-fire deal, international envoy Kofi Annan's spokesman said Tuesday.

Annan, who was giving a speech in Sweden and briefing the U.N. Security Council in New York, called on the Syrian government to fully implement its commitments under the truce, spokesman Ahmad Fawzi was quoted by the U.N. as saying in Geneva.

"This means withdrawal of all heavy armory (weapons) from population centers and (sending them) back to the barracks. They are claiming that this has happened. Satellite imagery, however, and credible reports show that this has not fully happened. So this is unacceptable," Fawzi said.

Annan also has become aware that U.N. cease-fire monitors are met with brief lulls of violence when they enter conflict areas in Syria, Fawzi said.

He further told U.N. Television there are credible reports "that these people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed."

After first posting an incomplete version of Fawzi's comments, the U.N. quickly sent out a "corrected" version that omitted mention of Syrian forces harassing and perhaps killing people who speak to the monitors -- a sign of the sensitivity of his statement.

But Fawzi retracted that corrected version after The Associated Press reviewed the U.N. footage for accuracy in his statement.

Fawzi called it "totally unacceptable" that people might be targeted for speaking with U.N. truce monitors and added that "it just underlines the risks involved, not only to the Syrian people themselves and civilians, men, women, children, but also to the U.N. observers. This is a risky venture, but it is one that we must undertake."

The cease-fire is part of Annan's peace plan, which aims to stop the 13-month violence in Syria, where more than 9,000 people are believed to have died during a government crackdown on a popular uprising.

Right now, there are only a small number of monitors on the ground in Syria, but the U.N. Security Council has authorized up to 300.

"With 11 or 12 monitors, you can't be everywhere, and there are many cities that have seen destruction and have seen fighting, and we have to be present," Fawzi said. "With up to 300, we will be able to monitor more cities than two to three at a time."

Annan said in a speech at Sweden's Lund University that the use of U.N. staff to monitor conflicts such as the one in Syria ultimately can offer "no guarantee of protection" without strong international backing.

The use of observers requires "skilled staff, strong mandates and clear international support" -- and their safety cannot always be assured, Annan said.

He spoke to mark the centenary of the birth of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is widely credited with rescuing tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II.

He said world powers should not always wait for conflicts to "erupt" before sending envoys or monitors. "Too often the Security Council response is weak or nonexistent, its actions driven not by principle but by politics and selectivity," he said of the U.N.'s most powerful arm.

Annan said the world must be ready to step in militarily when nations "cannot or will not protect their populations from the worst crimes." The so-called "responsibility to protect" principle, known by its shorthand R2P, was adopted by U.N. member nations in 2005.

"It made clear that hand-wringing and appeals to conscience by the international community are not enough," Annan said, without specifically invoking Syria. "Military action really must be the last resort. It may be necessary in some situations, but the decision must never be taken lightly."