Middle East News
Russia warns against arming Syrian rebels as 56 die
Apr 4, 2012, 22:37 GMT
Beirut - Fifty-six people were killed in unabating violence in Syria Wednesday, activists said, as Russia warned against arming rebels fighting the government, saying they could not win even if they were 'armed to the teeth.'
'Everyone has supported Kofi Annan's plan, but decisions at the Friends of Syria group meeting aimed at arming the opposition and at new sanctions undermine peace efforts,' Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Azerbaijan.
Lavrov was referring to an international conference held Sunday in Istanbul where the Syrian opposition called for arming the rebels.
Russia, a main supplier of arms to the Syrian government, has along with China vetoed two United Nations Security Council resolutions against Damascus.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the idea of arming the rebels.
But Western powers, including the United States, have shied away from the idea for fear of triggering a full-blown civil war in Syria.
At least 56 people were killed Wednesday in violence in several parts of Syria, said opposition activists, who contradicted reports that troops had started withdrawing from some cities in accordance with an international peace plan.
'On the ground there is no indication that any withdrawal had taken place in any area,' Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa.
Government shells Wednesday rained over several areas of the central province of Homs, where 28 people were killed, the rights group said.
'21 people were killed in the northern province of Idlib, while seven, including a seven-year-old girl and her parents, died in areas near the capital Damascus,' it added.
The violence persisted despite news that the Syrian government has accepted an April 10 ceasefire deadline to implement a peace plan brokered by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The plan requires government forces to withdraw from civilian areas. Rebel fighters are also required to immediately observe the truce.
Annan's spokesman, Ahmed Fawzy, announced that an advance UN team would arrive in Syria on Thursday to discuss the implementation of the plan.
The team will work out the details of deploying international monitors to supervise the planned ceasefire, he said.
Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi confirmed that a team made up of five UN members will hold talks with Syrian officials on Thursday
Meanwhile, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) chief Jakob Kellenberger surveyed humanitarian need in the restive southern province of Daraa on a visit with the Syrian Red Crescent.
Kellenberger, who arrived in Syria on Tuesday, also held talks with Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal al-Mikdad.
'Within its mission in Syria, ICRC has to ask the countries that support and fund terrorism to stop arming and financing operations in order to stop the Syrian bloodshed,' Mikdad told Kellenberger, according to state media.
Kellenberger praised the Syrian government's trust and assistance in his mission, and expressed hope that further cooperation will help the ICRC offer more aid.
The Syrian government had until now banned the ICRC from entering most of the country's restive areas to offer much-needed medical assistance.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011, according to the UN.
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