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U.N. Staff to Leave Syria
December 3, 2012

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The United Nations has announced that it is withdrawing staff from Damascus, the Syrian capital, citing worsening security, particularly around the airport.

About 1,000 in Syria work for the U.N., which said that dozens of international staffers would leave by the end of the week.

Fighting in and around the capital has been intense for many weeks, with both sides claiming ownership of various suburbs and capital neighborhoods. Recent violence just outside the airport forced an Egyptian plane to turn around mid-flight. As a result, EgyptAir canceled all flights to Syria for a few days. Similar action was taken by Emirates Air. The airport is 15 miles southeast of the city center.

In Istanbul, high-ranking representatives from Russia and Turkey met to discuss security in the area. Russian President Vladimir Putin remains keenly opposed to Turkey's deploying NATO antiaircraft missiles along the Syria-Turkey border. Turkey has been drawn into the Syrian conflict at various stages, most notably for stopping a Damascus-bound plane that allegedly carried weapons and for harboring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled north across the border.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated a warning that any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would be stepping over a line. The U.S. and most other Western nations have so far refused to recognize or arm the Syrian opposition. (France and the U.K. recently joined a handful of Middle Eastern countries in recognizing the opposition and calling for it to be more fully equipped.)

An opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, estimated that the death toll in the nearly two-year-old conflict had topped 40,000.

 

 

 

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