Red Cross negotiating Syria ceasefire to bring aid

GENEVA Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:52pm GMT

GENEVA (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is negotiating with Syrian authorities and opposition fighters on a cease-fire to bring life-saving aid to civilians hardest hit by the conflict, it said Monday.

"The ICRC is exploring several possibilities for delivering urgently needed humanitarian aid. These include a cessation of fighting in the most affected areas to facilitate swift Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC access to the people in need," ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad said.

Diplomatic sources told Reuters the Geneva-based ICRC, the only international agency deploying aid workers in Syria, is seeking a two-hour cessation of hostilities in hotspots including Homs, where opposition strongholds have been under fire for weeks.

The discussions with Syrian authorities and "all those involved in the fighting" remained confidential, Haddad said, declining to provide any details.

Since the start of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nearly a year ago, the independent humanitarian agency has been delivering food and medical supplies to civilians in cities from Deraa to Homs.

But with the intensified crackdown in the last several weeks, ambulances of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have had more difficulty reaching rebel-held areas and evacuating the growing number of wounded, the ICRC says.

Some areas are facing severe food shortages, it said last week.

Monday, activists in the western city of Hama said troops, police and militias had set up dozens of roadblocks, isolating neighborhoods from each other.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Peter Graff)

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