* Previous UN death toll figure was over 8,000
* UN Security Council wants to be briefed by Annan soon
By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, March 27 The United Nations said
on Tuesday that more than 9,000 civilians have been killed in
the Syrian government's yearlong assault on protesters opposed
to President Bashar al-Assad, an increase of nearly 1,000 over
its previous estimate.
"Violence on the ground has continued unabated, resulting in
scores of people killed and injured," Robert Serry, the U.N.
special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the
15-nation Security Council.
"Credible estimates put the total death toll since the
beginning of the uprising one year ago to more than 9,000," he
said. "It is urgent to stop the fighting and prevent a further
violent escalation of the conflict."
The previous U.N. estimate was that more than 8,000
civilians had been killed.
Serry also referred to U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's
announcement earlier on Tuesday that the Syrian government had
accepted the former U.N. secretary-general's six-point peace
"Immediate steps are needed now from the Syrian government
to act on their commitments and demonstrate to the Syrian people
that they are ready for a cessation of violence and a political
process, issues on which (Annan) will also engage the
opposition," Serry said.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, president of the
Security Council this month, told reporters that Annan will
brief the council on Syria on Monday at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT),
likely by video conference.
In a rare moment of international unity, Russia and China
joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council in throwing its
weight behind Annan's efforts to end the conflict and endorsing
his six-point peace plan.
Russia and China have twice vetoed resolutions condemning
Assad's attempt to crush the opposition with military force but
agreed to back last week's council statement in what Western
diplomats said was a diplomatic blow to the Syrian government.
Morocco's U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki, the sole Arab
envoy on the council, reacted cautiously to Annan's
"If Mr. Kofi Annan said that he has received a positive
answer we have to see this answer, and I think everybody will
assess that," he told reporters.
German Ambassador Peter Wittig was skeptical.
"Syria has a history of credibility gaps," he said. "The
Presidential Statement we adopted last week, contains a very
clear call on the Syrians to halt the violence, to stop the
forward movement, the use of heavy weapons and to start to pull
"This we have not seen on the ground," Wittig said.
Assad last year promised U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
that he would halt military operations against civilian
protesters but his security forces continued to crush
anti-government demonstrations around the country.