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UN envoy to Syria pins hopes for ending violence on observer mission

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Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/AP

(Read caption) United Nations Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan delivers a statement to the media after addressing the UN Security Council in New York by videolink, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday.

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Kofi Annan, the United Nations envoy to Syria, gave a pessimistic assessment yesterday, warning that the country was on the brink of civil war and that the UN observer mission "is the only remaining chance to stabilize the country."

Mr. Annan said that the observer mission, deployed to Syria as part of his peace plan, has managed to tamp down, but not end, the violence. 

"There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war and the implications of that are frightening," Annan told reporters yesterday, according to the Associated Press. A Syrian military truck was targeted with a bomb today when a convoy carrying observers, including the head of the mission, was less than 350 feet away. 

Although government troops are still present in cities and towns, they are there in smaller numbers, he said. Hervé Ladsous, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, said that the use of heavy weapons and major assaults has decreased but a "quieter crackdown [is] under way, including mass arrests," The New York Times reports. The observers have been able to operate fairly freely, a diplomat who heard the assessment told the NYT. 

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