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UN humanitarian chief to visit Syria

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Monday that Syrian authorities have confirmed they will allow her to visit the country this week after repeatedly ignoring her earlier requests.

Amos said in a statement that the aim of the visit is “to urge all sides to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so they can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies.”

Amos says she will arrive in Damascus on Wednesday and leave on Friday.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Syrian authorities last week for not responding to repeated requests for Amos to visit Syria.

The U.N. estimates that more than 7,500 people have been killed over 11 months in a government crackdown on civilian protesters. However, activist groups say the toll has already surpassed 8,000.

With international pressure growing, the Syrian government has also confirmed it will allow a March 10 visit by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a joint U.N.-Arab League envoy.

Concerns have been growing about a humanitarian crisis in Syria, where the Red Cross was blocked last week from the hard-hit district of Baba Amr in the city of Homs.

The Red Cross said it had received permission to enter Baba Amr on Monday.

The Syrian government has said it was blocking Baba Amr out of security concerns. But activists say that Syrian forces killed dozens of residents execution-style and burned homes in revenge attacks late last week after seizing the district back from rebels.

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