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Only faint hope for UN 'last chance' plan to avert civil war in Syria

The UN Security Council has approved a statement urging Syria to halt all violence by next Tuesday or 'further steps' will be taken. But what those further steps are is not clear.

By Staff writer / April 5, 2012

Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan attends a meeting at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday.

Martial Trezzini/AP

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Washington

The United Nations Security Council unanimously called on Syria Thursday to “urgently and visibly” halt all violence by an April 10 deadline in what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said was the “last chance” to save the country from civil war.

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Meanwhile, a UN team was in Damascus Thursday to negotiate the deployment of a mission to monitor the potential cease-fire. 

After months of failed attempts to act on Syria, the Security Council approved a nonbinding presidential statement that threatens “further steps” if the regime of President Bashar al-Assad fails to implement the peace plan that Mr. Ban’s special envoy, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, concluded with President Assad last week.

The statement, sponsored by the United States, the council’s rotating president, also calls on all other parties to cease “all forms” of armed action within 48 hours of the government pulling back from cities and ceasing its attacks.

The council’s action marked a modest unblocking of the diplomatic logjam that has stymied for more than six months Western attempts to secure international action against Assad. Russia and China have twice vetoed more consequential council resolutions on Syria, with Russia vowing to block any resolution the council’s three other permanent members – the US, Britain, and France – might use to intervene in the Syrian crisis.

Russia accuses the Western powers of going beyond the mandate of last year's UN resolution on Libya – which Russia supported – to launch the NATO air campaign against the forces of Muammar Qaddafi. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly said that Russia would not leave any doors open to armed intervention in Syria by the West.

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