U.N. votes to send monitors to Syria amid shaky truce

The Washington Post reports: The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to send up to 30 U.N. blue berets to Syria as the spearhead of a U.N. monitoring mission charged with reinforcing a shaky two-day cease-fire between the Syrian government and armed insurgents.

The vote places the United Nations at the center of one of the most volatile crises of the Arab Spring and offers the outside world independent eyewitness to what has unfolded during a 13-month crackdown on anti-government protesters that left more than 9,000 dead and pitched the country into civil war.

The cease-fire that went into effect on Thursday appeared to be fraying. There were reports of renewed tank and artillery fire in several areas of the embattled city of Homs, and in the relatively peaceful city of Aleppo at least five people were said to have been killed when security forces used live ammunition to suppress demonstrators at the funeral of a man killed the previous day.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, an opposition group, said 17 people had been killed nationwide in the renewed violence, nine of them in the shelling of Homs.

The action by the council followed a contentious round of negotiations that pitted the United States and its European and Arab allies against Russia. Moscow had opposed efforts to include language requiring Syria to empower the monitors with greater freedom of movement and action, saying their mandate needed to be negotiated with the Syrian government.

In order to secure Russian support, the United States and other key sponsors of the resolution were forced to strip out provisions from the resolution that would have required Syria to provide unimpeded access throughout the country. Instead, it merely “calls upon” the Syrian government to guarantee “full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access” for the U.N. monitors.

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