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Fears of escalation in Syrian conflict

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Fears of escalation in Syrian conflict
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With the UN having seen at first hand the effects of the military crackdown on rebels in Homs, pressure is mounting once again on the Syrian leadership. A UN team, led by humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, toured the district of Baba Amr, which had come under sustained bombardment lasting several weeks. She said it appeared the local residents had fled and said she was “devastated” by what she had seen.

Her main aim is to secure access for aid organisations, but that depends on the will of the Syrian leadership, and she expressed her concern to them directly.

The UN estimates some 9,500 people, including government forces, have been killed in the year-long conflict, and that the population in affected areas desperately needs aid.

Amid fears that the crackdown will intesifiy some senior Western and Arab figures have advocated arming the rebels or even direct intervention.

However, the UN’s envoy to the Arab League, Kofi Annan, has warned against any such escalation. After meeting League leaders he said: “I hope no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation. I believe any further militarisation will make the situation worse.”

There is evidence that that may be happening. Syrian state TV aired images of what it claimed was a rebels arms cache recovered in Homs, including Western-manufactured weapons.

At the UN, Russia has made more specific claims. Moscow’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told the Security Council: “We have received information that in Libya, with the support of the authorities, there is a special training center for the Syrian revolutionaries and people are sent to Syria to attack the legal government…this is completely unacceptable according to all legal basis. This activity is undermining stability in the Middle East. He also questioned whether “the export of revolution” was “turning into the export of terrorism.”

With diplomatic initiatives to halt the bloodshed stalled, there seems little prospect the violence will end any time soon.