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“The international community must be prepared to assist swiftly when the time comes,” he told delegates.

Violence in Syria has been escalating in recent weeks, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees have raised their total death toll to between 23,000 and 26,000.

Activists say some 5,000 people were killed in August, the highest toll in the 17-month-old uprising and more than three times the monthly average. The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said 1,600 were killed last week alone, also the highest figure for the entire revolt.

On Tuesday, the U.N. refugee agency said 100,000 refugees fled Syria in August alone, the highest monthly total since the uprising began.

The rise in people seeking asylum in neighboring countries brings the total of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration with the agency to 234,368 as of Sept. 2, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in Geneva.