U.N. council told of monitors' slow deployment to Syria

UNITED NATIONS Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:31pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. peacekeeping chief told the Security Council on Tuesday it will take a month to deploy 100 unarmed military observers to Syria, envoys said, though international mediator Kofi Annan argued that a few monitors on the ground can make a difference.

Herve Ladsous, U.N. under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, told the council that there will be 30 monitors in place in Syria by the end of April out of a total of up to 300 authorized by the Security Council on Saturday to supervise the country's fragile 12-day-old ceasefire, diplomats told Reuters.

Ladsous added there would be "100 observers in one month" in Syria, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Despite the slow pace of their deployment, even a small number of observers can have an enormous impact on the 13-month old conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, Annan told the 15-nation council.

"We have also seen events change - at least temporarily - in Homs, where violence has dropped significantly in response to the presence of a very small number of observers," Annan said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

The United Nations has deployed several observers to Homs to set up a semi-permanent outpost, council diplomats told Reuters.

However Annan said he was "particularly alarmed by reports that government troops entered Hama yesterday after observers departed, firing automatic weapons and killing a significant number of people."

"If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible," Annan said. "Two observers have been stationed in Hama today."

Annan added that he was worried about reports of fighting in areas where the advance team of monitors has not been present in recent days, including Idlib and Deraa.

"The government cannot cease action in one area and resume it in another," he said.

Syria's population is estimated at about 22.5 million.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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