U.N. Observers Head To Syria

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The frail cease-fire in Syria is being threatened by reports of violence in Homs and other areas. Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to send unarmed observers to the country. The first of the observers are on their way. NPR's Grant Clark has been following developments from Beirut.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We turn our attention now to Syria. United Nations observers are preparing to travel to Syria this week to start monitoring the fragile cease-fire between government forces and rebel fighters. The U.N. Security Council yesterday approved the deployment of a 30-member team. The monitors will have their work cut out for them. As NPR's Grant Clark reports from Beirut, military bombardment is reportedly continuing, despite an agreed truce.

GRANT CLARK, BYLINE: The unanimous vote passing Resolution 2042 is the first time that the Security Council has spoken with one voice on Syria. Members China and Russia - a staunch Syria ally - had previously objected to what they considered interference in Syrian domestic affairs. The deployment of the 30 monitors is meant to pave the way for a larger group of up to 250 observers, to be dispatched if the cease-fire holds. Speaking through an interpreter, Syrian Ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jafari yesterday said his government remained committed to international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan.

AMBASSADOR BASHAR JAFARI: (Through Translator) Syria, my country, has also accepted the concept of a U.N. supervision mechanism that would work within the limits of Syrian sovereignty, which the Syrian people consider a red line that cannot be crossed under any justification.

CLARK: The U.N. team is expected to face serious challenges on the ground.

PAUL SALEM: Observers will not be able to do much, there was already an Arab observer team in Syria a few months ago and they were not able to change realities much.

CLARK: That's Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

SALEM: Having 30 observers in a country of 180,000 square kilometers and over 20 million people, and a country where these observers will be controlled by the government, is not going to make much of a difference.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)

CLARK: Meanwhile, opposition activists say the military has resumed its shelling of rebel-dominated districts in the central city of Homs. The Syrian dissident LCC network says shells have been falling at the rate of six per minute in the Kaldiyeh neighborhood today. Grant Clark, NPR News, Beirut.

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