U.N. Chief to Chair Syria Donor Meeting

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U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will chair an international conference on January 30 to raise money for Syrian civilians caught up in the country's bloody civil war, the United Nations said Friday.

"The international community must do more to alleviate the suffering of millions of people in Syria and the neighboring countries," Ban said, according to a statement from his spokesman, Martin Nesirky.

The conference was announced earlier this week by Kuwait's Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, but it was not known that Ban would chair the gathering.

Ban is "extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria," his spokesman emphasized.

"This winter, many families are struggling to keep warm, without adequate shelter, warm clothes and heating fuel," the statement noted, adding that "children make up more than 50 percent of the civilians affected by the crisis."

The U.N. leader said the meeting in Kuwait "is a timely and much-needed opportunity to address the funding gap."

The U.N. is calling for $1.5 billion (750 million euros) to help through June nearly one million Syrian refugees and four million other Syrians affected by the conflict but who remain the country.

The U.N. high commission on refugees registered 500,000 Syrian refugees and expects nearly a million more by June 2013 -- figures that represent 4.4 percent of the pre-crisis population.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it has documented more than 45,000 deaths in violence since the uprising against Assad erupted in March last year, but adds the real death toll could be as high as 100,000.

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