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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.

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Churkin said the appeal should also urge the government and opposition to appoint representatives "to negotiate towards a political solution, and in particular towards the establishment of a transitional governing body as provided for in the Geneva document."

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Support for Arab League

In a letter to the council last Friday, Ban said the conditions for extending the observer mission had not been met, but he added that "it is imperative for the United Nations to have a presence in Syria" aside from its humanitarian operation in order to support UN and Arab League efforts "in mediating and facilitating a peaceful resolution to the crisis."

The Security Council initially authorized the 300-strong observer mission to deploy to Syria for 90 days to monitor implementation of a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The plan was to start with a cease-fire and withdrawal of the government's heavy weapons and culminate with Syrian-led political talks.

Assad's government and opposition forces agreed to the plan, but it was never implemented.

Because of the worsening bloodshed and insecurity, the observer mission has been cut by about two-thirds.

101 observers

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet told reporters after briefing the council behind closed doors that the observer mission "will come to an end at midnight Sunday."

There are currently 101 observers and 72 civilian staff members in Syria, he said. In order to have an orderly departure, the last observers will leave Aug. 24, but they will not do any work after Sunday.

Mulet said discussions are under way on the new UN liaison office, which he said has been approved by the Syrian government and will have about 20-30 staff members.

Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed Security Council resolutions that would have stepped up pressure especially against the Syrian government by threatening sanctions if the fighting didn't stop.

Frustrated at the escalating conflict and the failure of the Security Council to unite to stop the chaos, Annan announced last month that he was resigning effective Aug. 31.

Replacement for Annan

Mulet said he expected an announcement of a replacement for Annan "very soon."

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Annan said Syrian authorities have backed former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran UN troubleshooter in hotspots including Afghanistan and Iraq, as his successor, but it was unclear whether Brahimi had accepted the post.

Several UN diplomats, speaking on condition of a anonymity because no announcement has been made, said Brahimi wants a signal of support from the council.

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