SEPTEMBER 6, 2013
UN draws up emergency plan for Syria strike
UN agencies have drawn up emergency plans for a military strike on Syria but are determined to keep delivering aid in the stricken country, a top UN official said Friday. “We continue to update and look at our contingency planning” in case the numbers of refugees fleeing Syria rises, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said after a trip to Damascus. The United Nations has concerns about the safety of its 4,500 staff in Syria, she added. But Amos said: “We have a commitment to continue our humanitarian operations.” Amos said the mainly Syrian staff “want to continue to work for the good of Syrians” but “at the same time they are mindful of the impact that any possible military action might have on themselves and their families.” UN agencies and private aid groups already have problems reaching many areas in Syria because of fallout from the 29-month-old conflict which the UN says has left more than 100,000 dead. Eleven UN workers have been killed in the war. Amos, speaking by video conference from Beirut, said she had discussed lifting obstacles to getting approval for aid deliveries, convoys and visas for aid workers with officials in President Bashar al-Assad’s government. More than 4.25 million people have fled their homes in Syria and two million are registered as refugees in countries around Syria, according to UN figures. Amos highlighted the case of Lebanon. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, Robert Watkins, said there are now 726,000 Syrians registered with UN agencies and the figure is expected to rise above one million by the end of year. The UN said this week that it would have to cut aid to more than a quarter of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon because of funding shortages. The world body has launched its biggest ever annual appeal, $4.4 billion, for Syria. Less than half has been raised so far.