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Syrian cease-fire on verge of shattering

Los Angeles Times –

BEIRUT — Six days into the Syrian cease-fire and the term does not seem to fit, according to anti-government activists.

Shelling continued in the battered city of Homs and a government offensive in the northwest province of Idlib intensified, activists said, with almost 50 people killed, most of them in Idlib.

One media activist, Khalid Mahmoud Qbiesho in Idlib, was reported killed when a tank rolled over his head, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an anti-government group. Others were killed execution-style after intense shelling, activists said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon termed Tuesday’s violence as “sporadic,” but suggested a planned U.N. observer mission of 250 people may not be big enough “considering the current situation and considering the vastness of the country.”

Meanwhile, in Paris, a meeting of almost 60 “Friends of Syria” countries was held to reinforce sanctions against the Syrian government after more than a year of violence that the U.N. estimates has taken more than 9,000 lives.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said sanctions have thus far depleted the Syrian government’s financial reserves by half, The Associated Press reported. Juppe added that President Bashar Assad’s government was trying to maneuver around the sanctions.

Syrian authorities “continue to actively seek alternate routes to get around these sanctions, others (countries) are more or less offering alternative deals. We must respond to these maneuvers,” Juppe said.

Syria’s foreign currency reserve was believed to have been around $17 billion last March when the uprising against Assad first began, the AP reported.

“Our meeting is in itself a message,” Juppe said. “The Syrian regime must understand that it cannot continue its repression with impunity, and refuse the political transition laid out under the (U.N. special envoy Kofi) Annan plan and expected by the Syrian people.”

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