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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN, Syria Agree to New Peace Outline

April 19, 2012

VOA News

Amid a cease-fire repeatedly marred by violence, Syria's government and the United Nations have agreed on a plan for implementing the peace agreement brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

A spokesman for Annan said Thursday the agreement outlines the role of an advance team of observers in Syria, as well as provisions for monitoring the week-old cease-fire between government and opposition forces.

The spokesman said mediators are holding talks with opposition representatives on a similar agreement.

The U.N. Security Council debated a plan from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday that would expand the observer mission in Syria from about 30 to 300 people.

Germany's U.N. ambassador, Peter Wittig, expressed reservations about the plan, saying the Council must first make sure that "conditions are right" in the country before sending in a larger force.

Meanwhile, rights activists say Syrian government troops and army defectors clashed Thursday in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the fighting left one person dead and several injured. The group also reports loud explosions and intense shelling in the flashpoint city of Homs.

U.S. Pentagon leaders are briefing a House of Representatives committee on the unrest in Syria while a Senate panel is hearing testimony from Middle East experts.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the Syrian government's violence against the opposition "brutal and devastating." He said the U.S. is supporting international efforts to curb the unrest in several ways, including providing direct non-lethal support to the the opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was with Arab and European foreign ministers attending a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris on Thursday to support the Syrian opposition movement.

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, said the "Friends of Syria" meeting is important as the international community continues to look at using sanctions to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but that other measures, including protecting civilians, are still needed.

"I think we need to go back to the idea of protecting the civilians. It was done in Kosovo and elsewhere. There is no reason why after 14 months of organized, collective and systematic killings that the international community is not looking at a plan that could help people to protect themselves," said Ghalioun.

The U.N. says the crackdown in Syria has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.

A U.N.-backed survey on Thursday said more than 600,000 people are now internally displaced

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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