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Annan: 'Last Chance to Avoid Civil War'

UN-Arab envoy Kofi Annan and peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous say Assad's forces continue their assault despite cease-fire committments
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/8/2012, 10:28 PM

Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Reuters

UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan and the UN peacekeeping chief on Tuesday told the Security Council the Syrian army remains deployed in towns around the country as fighting and mass arrests continue.

According to diplomats Annan and Herve Ladsous said fewer heavy weapons were being used, but added further doubts about Damascus' commitment to a UN-brokered ceasefire agreement aimed at ending 14-months of bloodshed.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has waged a bloody campaign of oppression aimed at silencing protesters calling for his ouster that has left at least 9,100 dead.

Annan reportedly told the Security Council via video link from Geneva that his six-point peace plan is not an "open ended commitment," but rather, "a possible last chance to avoid civil war."

For his party, Ladsous told the council that there has been a "noticeable reduction in the use of heavy weapons, a decline in the conduct of large scale military, but now more discreet military operations continue...large scale arrests.".

Annan told the council that he was especially concerned human rights violations might be intensifying, with more arrests and torture.

"People known for advocating non-violence have been arrested," Annan reportedly said, adding that "a reduction in [military] operations is not meaningful if replaced by other forms of violence."

Since early this year, reports of war crimes by forces loyal to Assad - including  systemic rape, kidnapping, torture, and mass summary executions in dissident and rebel centers - have become prevalent in Syria.

A UN-backed ceasefire was announced for April 12, but it has not been implemented and fighting continues between Assad's forces and army defectors with the rag-tag Free Syrian Army.

UN observers have been gradually deploying in Syria, but they have yet to reach their full full projected strength of 300, making their mission difficult to execute. Their are currently 50 observers on the ground in Syria.

Meanwhile, fighting between rebels and President Bashar Al Assad's forces erupted in the provincial capital of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria on the the eve of a parliamentary election regime says shows reforms are under way.

Rebels reportedly launched counter-strikes there in response to an army offensive against towns and villages in the tribal area bordering Iraq, which has that has killed tens of people and stopped others from reaching supplies and medical care.

Assad's government responded with its now well-established mantra that its crackdown on Syria's dissidents and rebels is a campaign against "foreign terrorists" seeking the president's overthrow.

However, anti-government demonstrations have expanded in Aleppo after Assad's forces killed seven student protesters at Aleppo University last month.

It has been widely reported that street demonstrations demanding his removal have been expanding across the country now that monitors have begun to arrive.

Unlike the ousted autocrats of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, Assad retains significant support among the military and his Alawite sect, which dominates both the army and his pervasive security apparatus.

The Obama administration has said Assad won't be ousted without foreign intervention, either directly or by arming and training the rebels. Nonetheless, while Washington continues to call for Assad to step down, it refuses to intervene.