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UN to end observer mission in Syria

Conditions for possibly extending the United Nations' military observer mission – reduction of violence and no use of heavy weapons – had not been met, France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud announced. The current president of the Security Council said the mandate would end Sunday.

By Edith M. LedererAssociated Press / August 16, 2012

Members of the United Nations observers mission in Syria walk at a hotel in Damascus last month. On Sunday they will walk out of Syria as the U.N. announced to end the mission.

Khaled al-Hariri

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UNITED NATIONS

The Security Council agreed Thursday to end the United Nations' military observer mission in Syria in the face of an escalating civil war and back a new liaison office in Damascus to support UN and Arab League efforts to end the country's 18-month conflict.

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France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud, the current Security Council president, said members who have been deeply divided on tackling the conflict were united behind UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's proposal to replace the 300 unarmed observers with a small group of military advisers and political, human rights and civil affairs experts.

No reduction in violence

Araud said the council agreed that conditions set for possibly extending the observer mission — a significant reduction in violence and an end to the Syrian government's use of heavy weapons — had not been met and the mission's mandate would end Sunday.

The mission has been severely limited in its work by the violence in Syria, and members have been mainly confined to their hotels since June 15.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country is the most important ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, invited UN ambassadors from key nations and regional and international organizations who agreed in June in Geneva on guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition to a meeting Friday at UN headquarters in New York.

Churkin told reporters he wants the Geneva action group — along with "important actors" Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are not members — to make "a joint or parallel appeal to all the parties of the Syrian conflict that they end violence as soon as possible by a certain point in time."

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