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Head of UN observers leaves Syria

The United Nations decided last week not to extend the mandate of the UNSMIS, but agreed instead to establish a civilian office in Damascus.

Damascus: Head of the UN Supervision Mission to Syria (UNSMIS), General Babacar Gaye, left Syria on Saturday morning, leaving behind a number of UN members who are believed to be running the new political liaison office the United Nations has recently decided to establish in the unrest-stricken country.

Wearing a suit and tie and holding his small leather briefcase, Gaye headed early Saturday to the International Airport of Damascus, sources said.

Most of the UN observers have already left the country after their mandate expired on Sunday. Diplomats at the United Nations said conditions for continuing the mission had not been met.

Gaye was appointed as the new head of the UNSMIS in July to lead the mission in its final 30-day extended mandate.

The four-month mission failed to quell the 18-month civil unrest and the observers was witnessing escalating violence. The mission suspended its field trips in June after its convoys had come under fire several times.

Days ahead of his departure, Babacar expressed frustration that his mission was unable to minimise the violence. Nevertheless, he said it was a comfort that the UN presence in Syria will continue, even though the nature of the presence and its possible role in helping to end the violence are yet to be fully detailed.

The United Nations decided last week not to extend the mandate of the UNSMIS, but agreed instead to establish a civilian office in the capital Damascus to oversee the situation in case a chance for political solutions ever emerged.

The UN Security Council also appointed Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the new special envoy to Syria to replace Kofi Annan, who declared his resignation earlier this month due to the ongoing violence.

On Thursday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad said his country was awaiting "news" from the UN secretariat regarding the next step following the UNSMIS, reiterating willingness to cooperate with Brahimi.

Mikdad said he was "optimistic" that the crisis in Syria should end and accused Turkey of fuelling the situation in the country by rendering support to the armed opposition fighters on ground.


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