BEIRUT -- The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved sending up to 30 unarmed monitors to Syria to help maintain what at best can be described as a fragile cease-fire.
The vote came as activists reported almost 20 deaths across Syria, including nine in the city of Homs, where videos uploaded to the Internet indicated that government forces had begun shelling once again.
In the northern city of Aleppo, which, like the capital, Damascus, hasn't come out in opposition to President Bashar Assad as strongly as much of the rest of the country, five protesters were reportedly killed in a large demonstration in the Ithaah neighborhood.
The deaths come as the peace plan proposed by special envoy Kofi Annan appears increasingly in danger. Annan’s spokesman said Friday that the U.N. monitors were on standby, ready to board a plane once the resolution was approved.
The small team will be sent ahead of a larger group of possibly 250 monitors to ensure that Assad's forces and rebel fighters abide by the terms of the cease-fire that aims to end the violence in the year-old uprising.
The U.N. resolution stalled Friday as Russia’s ambassador objected to a provision that called for the Syrian government to be held accountable for human rights violations, among other sticking points, officials said.
On Saturday, the ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said he was "satisfied" with the resolution after it had gone under substantive changes to be what he called more balanced and reflect the reality on the ground. The monitors will include one Russian officer, he said.
Germany’s U.N. ambassador, Peter Wittig, said the resolution "comes deplorably late, but hopefully not too late."
-- Times staff
Photo: Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, second from left, joins other Security Council members at U.N. headquarters in New York in a unanimous vote authorizing the deployment of U.N. observers in Syria. Credit: Craig Ruttle / Associated Press