UN to Syria: Admit our humanitarian relief teams

Senior UN official calls on Assad regime to "let us in"; at least 4,000 killed so far in mass protests across Syria.

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President  Assad 311 R (photo credit: Reuters)
Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Assad 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters)
STOCKHOLM - United Nations humanitarian relief teams must be allowed into Syria to assess the predicament of its people in the ninth month of violent unrest in which at least 4,000 people have been killed, a senior UN official said on Friday.
"I repeat my call to the Syrian government to really let us in," said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief.
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"We are concerned about the health impact of what is going on. We don't have a very clear picture across the country because we do not have the access that will enable us to know exactly what is going on," she told reporters in Stockholm.
"If, as the government say, they have nothing to hide, then I think allowing us in to see that that is the case and to do a proper assessment of what the implications of this are for the people of Syria is absolutely critical," Amos said.
She said the United Nations did not have the data to assess whether or not humanitarian corridors or buffer zones, as proposed by some concerned states, would be helpful.
"If we don't know where the needs are, where are we going to set up possible humanitarian corridors or buffer zones?"
Also on Friday, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger stated that Syrian President Bashar Assad must step down immediately and be held accountable for any human rights abuses committed during a crackdown on opposition protesters.
As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Austria has a duty to help highlight the "atrocities of the regime" and to ensure they are judged at an international level, he said in a statement after meeting the main Syrian opposition leader in exile.
"There can be no impunity. Assad will have to answer for his offenses," Spindelegger said after meeting Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun in Vienna.
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Foreign reporters are barred from Syria except by government invitation.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it had nearly tripled its budget for Syria for 2012. It has delivered food and health supplies in major cities, including Homs, the epicentre of the revolt against President Bashar Assad and the government crackdown on pro-democracy protests.