French proposals for "humanitarian corridors" in Syria to help civilians affected by eight months of unrest are not justified by humanitarian needs identified so far in the country, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator said.
Valerie Amos said 3 million people had been affected by the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, and Syria's Red Crescent had sought support to feed 1.5 million people.
"A number of suggestions have been made on how to provide assistance to Syrians affected by the current unrest," Amos said, referring to proposals for humanitarian corridors or buffer zones.
"At present, the humanitarian needs identified in Syria do not warrant the implementation of either of those mechanisms," she said, adding that the United Nations had been unable to assess comprehensively those needs because of the limited number of international staff operating in Syria.
"Before any further discussion of these options, it is essential to get a clearer sense of what exactly people need, and where," Amos said in a statement released on Friday.
The United Nations says more than 3,500 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on eight months of protests against his rule. Syria blames armed groups for killing 1,100 soldiers and police.
The proposal for humanitarian corridors to address civilian suffering were outlined by France on Wednesday, in the first Western initiative for intervention on the ground.
They could link Syrian civilian centres to the Turkish or Lebanese frontiers, to the Mediterranean coast or to an airport, enabling the supply of humanitarian supplies or medicines to people in need.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the plan fell short of a military intervention but acknowledged that humanitarian convoys might need armed protection.
Foreign powers are seeking to persuade Damascus to accept such a scheme, diplomats said. Without Syrian agreement, they said the only way humanitarian corridors could work would be if they were backed by force, ideally supported by a U.N. resolution.
Amos said thousands of Syrians had fled their country and many more sought refuge with family or friends away from their homes. Food and fuel prices had risen, and the economy was declining, she said.