Syria refuses entry to UN humanitarian chief

AFP , Wednesday 29 Feb 2012

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos denied access to Syria to assess deteriorating humanitarian situation

 Syria on Wednesday refused to let UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos enter the country to assess the growing crisis blamed on the government's deadly clampdown on protests, the UN official said.

The UN under secretary general had been in Beirut waiting for a visa to go to Damascus. But President Bashar al-Assad's government did not respond to UN requests to visit, diplomats said.

"I am deeply disappointed that I have not been able to visit Syria, despite my repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence," Amos said in a statement.  Syria rejected the visit despite efforts by Russia, Assad's closest international ally, to back Amos, diplomats said.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon told Amos, a former minister in Britain, last week to go to Syria to urgently demand humanitarian access to cities where the United Nations now says that more than 7,500 people have been killed in 11 months.

"Given the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, with an increasing need for medical assistance, food and basic supplies, improving access, so that assistance can reach those in urgent need, is a matter of the highest priority," Amos said.

The UN humanitarian chief said she backs efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to organize a daily pause in hostilities so that humanitarian organizations can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies of food and medicine.
"Every day that we are not able to reach people, especially in the towns where there is heavy fighting, prolongs their suffering," Amos said.

"The United Nations and its partners stand ready to help humanitarian aid reach people in desperate need in Syria."

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