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UN Monitor Chief Says Team Will Adapt Syria Mission

Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, chief of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria speaks during a news conference in Damascus on July 5, 2012.
The head of the United Nations observer team in Syria says he will adjust the way the monitors work when their mission resumes, with a focus on staying in certain areas for longer periods of time.

Major General Robert Mood told reporters Thursday in Damascus that it is time to stop spreading the team out "too thin" and that the U.N. Security Council will decide on the future of the mission in the coming days and weeks.

"Whatever decision the Security Council makes, the international community's continued responsibility to the Syrian people is moral as well as political. We cannot and we will not turn our eyes and ears away from your plight," said Mood. "And we'll continue our work to find new paths to political dialogue and peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Mood suspended operations on June 16 due to safety risks to the 300 observers in Syria. The United Nations said attackers targeted the observer team several times with gunfire and bombs.

The crisis in Syria is expected to be a major topic Thursday as foreign ministers from France and Turkey meet in Paris and their counterparts from Germany and Russia hold talks in Moscow.

The meetings come a day before France is set to host about 100 delegations for a "Friends of Syria" meeting - one which Russia and China say they will not attend. Neither country appeared at the group's previous meetings in April and February.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Thursday that while China will not participate in Friday's talks, the aim of bringing an end to the crisis is important.

"We believe that now is a crucial moment for finding a political resolution to the Syria issue," he said. "The international community should strive to implement the consensus reached at the Geneva talks. Meanwhile, resolving the Syria issue will require the joint effort and participation from all parties in Syria. Right now, China is not considering attending this meeting."

Russia and China have disagreed with Western countries this week over the meaning of an accord reached last Saturday in Geneva calling for a transitional governing body in Syria. Several Western nations said the agreement would preclude Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from being a part of a transitional government, but Russia and China say there is no such stipulation.

The two sides have long been at odds over how to address the situation in Syria, where a revolt against Assad's nearly 12-year rule broke out in March of last year. Russia and China have used their veto power on the United Nations Security Council to block several rounds of proposed sanctions against Syria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that his government wants to see signs of movement "as quickly as possible" or else it would return to the United Nations to seek tougher measures, ranging from sanctions to possible military intervention.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 people were killed Wednesday as clashes continued throughout Syria. Opposition activists say the carnage has spiked in recent days, with at least 109 people killed Sunday, 114 on Monday and 69 on Tuesday.

VOA cannot independently confirm the reports of casualties or violence because Syria has severe restricted access by international journalists.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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