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UN ex-chief named envoy as pressure mounts on Syria

Update: February, 24/2012 - 11:51

DAMASCUS – The UN named its former leader Kofi Annan ass special envoy for Syria on the eve of an international conference on Friday aimed at pressuring the Assad government to halt the rising spiral of violence.

Amid international outrage over the deaths of two Western journalists and reports of intensified shelling of civilians, Annan was called on to represent both the UN and the Arab League in ending "violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis," the two bodies said in a statement on Thursday.

The appointment came on the day international investigators submitted a list of Syrian military and political officials suspected of possible crimes while the death toll continued to mount inside the country.

More than 7,500 people have been killed in 11 months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad and there is growing international pressure for an initiative seeking to end the murderous government crackdown.

Western and Arab powers are to push Syria to allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid at an international conference in Tunis on Friday.

More than 60 nations are gathering for the crucial "Friends of Syria" conference, which will also seek to further isolate Assad's regime and support the country's opposition.

But the Arab League-organised conference of Arab and Western officials, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will be marked by a Russian boycott and the absence of China.

An early draft of the meeting's declaration being circulated by opposition sources Thursday said it could call for the Syrian government "to implement an immediate ceasefire and to allow free and unimpeded access by the UN... and humanitarian agencies." -- AFP

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