Ban Ki-moon strongly condemns blast in Syria

United Nations: Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday strongly condemned the bomb attack in Syria near a UN convoy, saying the efforts of the observers of the world body are "the only remaining chance" to avert a civil war in the troubled nation.

Ban said the increase in detonation of explosive devices across Syria as well as the continued violence in many cities question the commitment of the all parties to the cessation of violence announced last month.

The UN Secretary-General "strongly condemns this attack and calls on all parties to adhere to the cessation of violence and to cooperate with, support and protect the UNSMIS (UN Supervision Mission in Syria) observers," a statement issued by Ban`s spokesperson here said on Wednesday.

"This mission and the efforts of the Joint Special Envoy (Kofi Annan) are possibly the only remaining chance to stabilise the country and avert a civil war," it added.

An improvised explosive device was detonated at a Syrian military checkpoint near the town of Dara earlier in the morning. While no UN casualties or damage to UN vehicles was reported, the Syrian government said 10 Syrian soldiers were injured. The blast occurred just seconds after the convoy carrying UN observers and head of the monitoring team Major General Robert Mood passed by the military checkpoint.

Ban said there is no evidence yet to conclude that the explosion was intended to target the UNSMIS convoy. "This incident demonstrates the difficult and challenging conditions under which our United Nations observers are operating. It also demonstrates the volatile and dangerous situation in which the Syrian people have been living for months," Ban said in the statement.

The UN Chief said such incidents may have a direct impact on the future of the mission, which was authorised by the UN Security Council last month, and is tasked with monitoring the cessation of violence in Syria and supporting the full implementation of a six-point peace plan put forward by Annan.

Annan`s plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, release of detainees, start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

Annan had on Wednesday given a bleak assessment of the crisis in Syria, saying violence remained at "unacceptable levels" in the country. "There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war and the implications of that are frightening," Annan had told reporters in Geneva after briefing the UN Security Council by video conference on the situation in Syria.

The observer mission "is the only remaining chance to stabilize the country," he had said. The crisis in Syria, which began in March last year as a pro-democracy protest movement, has claimed over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.