Arms are being smuggled between Lebanon and Syria, posing a threat to regional safety, the UN Security Council has heard. Meanwhile, mediator Kofi Annan has warned that Syria is creeping towards a full-scale civil war.
UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen claimed that the smuggling of weapons across the border, in both directions, posed a threat to both Lebanon and Syria.
"Based on information that we have, there are reasons to believe that there is a flow of arms both ways, from Lebanon into Syria and from Syria into Lebanon," Roed-Larsen told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council about events in Lebanon.
"We do not have independent observers for this but we are basing our reporting on information which we are receiving from a variety of sources," he added. "What we see across the region is a dance of death at the brink of the abyss of war," said Roed-Larsen.
Although no specific details were given, the announcement comes after the Lebanese navy seized three containers of weapons bound for Syria late last month.
The Security Council also heard from UN and Arab league envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday. Annan said violence in Syria could escalate to the level of a civil war, unless an existing peace plan was enacted soon.
"The level of violence and abuses are unacceptable," Annan told reporters after a closed door briefing to the 15-nation Security Council in New York.
Speaking on videophone from Geneva, Annan informed council members about his efforts to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to carry out a six-point plan.
"I am sure I am not telling you any secret when I tell you that there is profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war and the implications of that are quite frightening," he said. "We cannot allow that to happen."
Annan expressed concern that torture, mass arrests and other human rights violations were "intensifying," diplomats said.
Cease-fire unheeded as observers arrive
The Security Council has already agreed to send 300 unarmed military observers to Syria to monitor the level of violence. An official ceasefire appears, at least in part, to have gone unheeded with violence reported from both sides. The observer mission has an initial 90-day mandate running to mid-July.
With 61 observers now at six locations in Syria, more than 100 more are expected by the end of the week.
After Annan's briefing, Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said his country was committed to the plan. However, he accused "terrorists," including members of al Qaeda, of murdering civilians and soldiers in Syria.
The plan calls for end to all fighting, humanitarian access, deployment of observers and dialogue aimed at starting a "political transition."
Somber and optimistic outlooks
The Russian view of the situation contrasted with the assessment that Annan offered to the council, which was described as "somber" by diplomats.
"Things are moving in a positive direction," Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after Annan's briefing.
China, which like Russia has blocked two resolutions on Syria, also offered an upbeat outlook, claiming the events in the country were "developing positively."
However, US ambassador Susan Rice took the opposite line. "The situation in Syria remains dire, especially for the millions who continue to endure daily attacks and are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance."
"The United States remains focused on increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and on Assad himself to step down," Rice said.
According to the UN, more than 9,000 people have died since the current violence erupted last March.
rc/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)