World cautious on Syria peace amid rising toll
United Nations: Western nations gave a sceptical welcome Wednesday to President Bashar al-Assad`s acceptance of a UN-Arab League peace plan for Syria as the UN said the death toll for the uprising has passed 9,000.
"Violence on the ground has continued unabated," Robert Serry, a UN Middle East peace envoy, told a Security Council meeting.
"Credible estimates put the probable death toll since the beginning of the uprising one year ago to more than 9,000. It is urgent to stop the fighting and prevent a further violent escalation of the conflict," Serry added.
The Security Council discussed the Middle East after UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan announced that Assad has accepted his six-point plan, which includes a commitment to halt violence and allow a two hour humanitarian pause to fighting each day.
Activists said there had been new deaths in Syria despite the response to Annan and concerns were raised in Security Council consultations over reports that Syrian forces had
crossed into Lebanon to an area where Syrian opposition members have taken refuge, diplomats said.
Annan, who will brief the Security Council on Monday, called on the Syrian government to "put its commitments into immediate effect." Western powers said Syria`s actions now will be a test of its attitude to international calls to halt killings.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called Annan`s announcement was "an important step."
"But as with all things with the Assad regime, the proof will be in the actual action that he takes," Nuland told reporters in Washington.
"We will be looking for him to take immediate action to begin implementing Annan`s proposals, starting with silencing his guns and allowing humanitarian aid to go in," Nuland said.
Britain`s Foreign Secretary William Hague also said Assad`s acceptance of the plan could be "a significant first step" towards ending the deadly crackdown on the opposition.
"But only if it is genuinely and seriously meant," Hague said in London. "This has not been the case with previous commitments the regime has made.
"The key will be concrete implementation that brings a cessation of all hostilities and leads to a genuine political transition," he added.
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