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U.N. envoy Kofi Annan raises specter of civil war in Syria

May 8, 2012 | 11:07 am

Syria (11)
BEIRUT -- United Nations envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday expressed "profound concern" that the violence in Syria is spiraling into civil war even as U.N. monitors continue to arrive in the country.

The U.N. monitoring mission is the only chance to stabilize the country, Annan told reporters in Geneva after briefing the Security Council on the situation in Syria. The entire 300-member team is expected to be in Syria by the end of the month to observe a disintegrating cease-fire.

"There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war, and the implications of that are frightening," he said. "We cannot allow that to happen."

Hundreds of people have been killed since the monitors arrived in Syria, and opposition members and world leaders have criticized the government of President Bashar Assad for continuing to crack down on dissent despite the truce.

Annan said the monitors, who now number about 50, have had a calming effect but that violations of the cease-fire are intensifying, including a recent spate of bombings. He appealed to the "people with guns" to think of Syria and the region.

"If it fails and it were to lead into a civil war, it will not only affect Syria it will have an impact on the whole region," he said. “Which is why all should be concerned."

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, said his country was cooperating fully with the mission.

"We consider that things are evolving positively," he said. "The size of the violence has diminished."

But he added that the type of violations committed has worsened, including suicide bombings, assassinations and roadside bombs.


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-- Times staff

Photo: Syrian airport officials unload U.N. supplies from a plane at Damascus' international airport on Tuesday. Credit: Joseph Eid / AFP/Getty Images