ICRC chief to begin Syria visit to seek access to civilians
The International Committee of the Red Cross said its president was due in Damascus late Sunday to press Syrian leaders to allow access to all people affected by the country's festering violence.
During his two-day visit, Jakob Kellenberger was to confer with Prime Minister Adel Safar, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Syrian expatriates, the ICRC said in a statement.
It added that the talks would "focus on the humanitarian situation in Syria and on the role the ICRC is ready to play in order to assist people affected by the ongoing violence".
Kellenberger was also to huddle with the state minister for Red Crescent affairs, as well as the president and senior officials of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
Hicham Hassan, an ICRC spokesman, recalled that his agency had for weeks been pressing for access to all affected Syrians, so far to no avail.
The relief agency said it had only been able to carry out short visits to Daraa, Tartous and Homs in the past month in cooperation with the Syrian Red Crescent.
On Saturday, Syrian army tanks entered a village bordering Turkey, where 10,000 Syrians have sought refuge, an activist said, as Washington warned Damascus over its "continued brutality" against protesters.
The Syrian Observatory website said that the violence had claimed the lives of 1,309 civilians and 341 security force members since it erupted in mid-March.
© 2011 AFP