May 9, 2011 / 4:52 PM / 6 years ago

U.N. says Syria hasn't let it into protest city Deraa

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Syria has not been granted a U.N. humanitarian mission access to the southern city of Deraa, where Syrian armed forces were deployed to crush anti-government protests, a U.N. spokesman said on Monday.

“The (U.N.) humanitarian assessment mission has not been able to get into Deraa,” spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters. “We’re trying to clarify why it hasn’t had access, and we’re also trying to get access to other areas of Syria.”

Asked if the United Nations felt that Syria had reneged on a prior agreement to allow it into Deraa, Haq said: “We’re trying to get the clarification as to why it hasn’t gotten in. Let’s see whether they can get in the coming days.”

During a telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad expressed a “willingness to consider such an assessment to Deraa,” the U.N. press office said.

Syria’s upheaval began on March 18 when protesters, inspired by revolts across the Arab world, marched in Deraa. Assad initially responded with vague promises of reform, and last month lifted a 48-year-old state of emergency.

But when the protests persisted Assad sent the army to crush public dissent, first in Deraa and then other cities, making clear he would not risk losing the tight control his family has held over Syria for the past 41 years.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jackie Frank

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