Half UN observer mission have quit Syria
Half of the members of the United Nations observer mission in Syria have left the country, as it starts its "final" 30-day mandate, the UN's chief peacekeeper Herve Ladsous told reporters on Wednesday.
"UNSMIS (is) in a reduced format," he said of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, speaking at a press conference in Damascus.
"About half the military observers have been for the time being sent back to their countries, so the mission operates on a reduced basis, reduced in numbers, reduced in team size in the provinces and does what it can," he said.
"But of course taking into account the security situation, which of course in many places is extremely delicate."
Earlier, two members of the observer mission told AFP that about half the team of 300 unarmed military observers had quit Syria.
"One hundred and fifty observers left Syria on Tuesday evening and Wednesday and they will not come back," one observer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"They left after a decision was taken to reduce the mission by half," a second observer said, without specifying who had taken the decision.
The UN mission, which consists of 300 unarmed military observers accompanied by around 100 civilian support staff, was deployed in April to oversee a ceasefire that went largely unrespected.
In mid-June, it suspended patrols as fighting intensified.
On 20 July, the UN Security Council voted to extend the mission's mandate for a "final" 30 days.
Ladsous pointed out that the resolution says any extension of the mandate would only be considered if there was "very specific and sustainable progress on the level of violence, which should subside substantially, and on the use of heavy weapons.
"So this is what we have to bear in mind," he said.
The new head of the mission, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, also addressed reporters, noting he was taking over "in a very difficult situation."
"During our last trip in Damascus... we witnessed some decrease in the violence, but unfortunately since that we had to suspend our activities," he said.
"We are back with the hope that reason will prevail, that there will be in this tunnel some light that we can seize and obtain less violence," he said.
"We have 30 days and around today 27 to go, so every opportunity will be seized to alleviate the suffering of the population. This is our main concern."
Western governments have expressed skepticism about the chances that violence will subside within the period of the mission's 30-day mandate.
US ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution would simply allow the observers "to withdraw safely" from Syria, although British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it gave President Bashar al-Assad's government "the final chance" to keep its commitment to end violence.
But Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin insisted that the phrase "final period of 30 days" in the text was not the death knell for UNSMIS.
"This is not a resolution about withdrawal, it is a resolution about continuation of the activity of the mission," he said.
Ministers in Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's cabinet following the recent reshuffle (new appointees are in italics): 1. Minister of Agriculture Ahmed Mahmoud Ali El-Gizawi2. Minister of Antiquities Ahmed Eissa3. Minister of Aviation Wael Maadawi4. Minister of Communication Atef Helmy5. Minister of Culture
AP— April 15, 2013: Two bombs explode in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 140.— January 17, 2011: A backpack bomb is placed along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington, meant to kill and injure participants in a civil rights march, but is found and disabled before it can explode. White
The convenient marriage between Iran and the Arab left would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, given the traditional ideological paradoxes between patriarchal Persian Shiism, on the one hand, and leftist orthodoxy on the other.Indeed, a casual viewer of Hizbullah's Al-Manar television, or the Iranian-funded Al-Mayadin TV, these days would probably think that the two Shia propaganda
"Abdullah's appointment was done via constitutional decree; it was a sovereign act by the head of the executive and therefore cannot be reversed by court ruling," said one leading FJP/Brotherhood figure. His comments echoed earlier assertions by Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud.The return of former prosecutor-general Mahmoud is "not going to happen," according to several government