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Syria Crisis: Red Cross Denied Access To Baba Amr For Second Day

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SYRIA CRISIS RED CROSS
A woman walks next to a graffiti that reads in broken English: "Go Out Bashar" referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in Idlib, north Syria, Saturday, March 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) | AP


By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, March 3 (Reuters) - Syrian authorities prevented a convoy of life-saving aid from entering the Baba Amro district of Homs for a second day on Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

"The ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent did not enter Baba Amro today. Our negotiations with Syrian authorities continue in order to enter and help as many people as possible," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in Geneva.

"We want to go in as soon as possible," he said.

The ICRC and Red Crescent teams, who arrived in Homs on Friday having received a "green light" from Syrian authorities hours after rebels fled Baba Amro, will spend their second night in Syria's third-largest city, he said.

Hassan, asked the reason for the delay in access, said: "The reason given yesterday (Friday) was for security reasons."

Syrian forces bombarded parts of Homs again on Saturday, activists said.

The convoy would have been the first Red Cross aid for civilians stranded for weeks without food and fuel in the former rebel stronghold.

The ICRC convoy of seven trucks carrying relief supplies, joined by Red Crescent volunteers and ambulances to evacuate the sick and wounded, remained stalled in Homs.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger, in a statement issued on Friday after waiting all day for Syrian authorities to grant entry to the team, said the delay was "unacceptable".

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he had received "grisly reports" that Syrian government forces were executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Homs after rebel fighters had fled.

Wounded British photographer Paul Conroy, who escaped Homs earlier this week, said he had witnessed Syrian troops carrying out a massacre in the Baba Amro district, which had become a symbol of a year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The ICRC is the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria, where the United Nations has been shut out.

Hassan declined to comment on Ban's remarks, but said: "It is precisely to have a clearer understanding of the real size of the humanitarian problem that we need to get in."

On Thursday, Syrian authorities gave the ICRC "positive signals" regarding its public appeal of Feb. 21 for a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire across Syria, he said.

"It is still important that we implement this initiative urgently," he said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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