Calls for UN monitors as fragile Syria ceasefire holds

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VietNam News English - 34 month(s) ago 3 readings

A fragile and hard-won ceasefire appeared to be holding in Syria as Western nations on Friday began drawing up plans to send UN monitors to the conflict-torn nation.

DAMASCUS –

"I am encouraged by reports that the situation in Syria is relatively calm and that the cessation of hostilities appears to be holding," the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said in a statement.

But as the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels traded accusations of trying to wreck the ceasefire, Annan insisted on Thursday that "all parties have obligations to implement fully the six-point plan".

"What has happened today does not constitute full compliance by the Syrian government," Annan was quoted as saying as he briefed the UN Security Council. "Syrian troops and armour must return to their barracks immediately."

After 13 months of war, which activists say has claimed more than 10,000 lives since March 2011, Annan said the UN Security Council must demand that troops be pulled out of cities.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said plans were being drawn up to send observers to Syria, starting with the dispatch of a UN peacekeeping general as early as Friday.

An advanced mission of 20-30 observers could be in place early next week, diplomats said. The full mission would be at least 200 monitors.

Ban said "the world is watching however with sceptical eyes", adding previous promises made by the regime "have not been kept".

A draft Security Council resolution, includes demands that Assad "visibly" implement his commitment to withdraw troops and guns from population centres.

And it adds that if the Syrian government does not implement its commitments, the council would "consider further measures as appropriate".

Despite the prospect of tough talks, some diplomats said they were optimistic an agreement on the draft could be reached by Friday.

And long-time Syrian ally Russia said the Security Council could pass the text as early as Friday.

World powers said the tentative truce in Syria was a "fragile" first step and joined the calls for Damascus to carry out a broader peace plan and permit international observers to monitor it.

In a statement after two days of talks in Washington, foreign ministers from the Group of Eight major economies, which include Western powers and Syria's main supporter Russia, urged "immediate" action to send in observers.

For protesters though, the first real test of the government's commitment will be to allow peaceful demonstrations.

"We call on the people to demonstrate and express themselves... The right to demonstrate is a principle point of the plan," said Burhan Ghalioun, who leads the exile SNC.

But the interior ministry insists people wanting to demonstrate must have permits.

Renewed bloodshed on Thursday killed at least eight people, including seven civilians, and wounded dozens more, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Even so, the toll is markedly lower than it has been in recent weeks, when there have often been scores of people killed. - AFP

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