Ban: Syria truce holding; need more peacekeepers

It was unclear whether Assad would agree to allow more UN troops, foreign aircraft into Syria.

Good Syria demonstration picture 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Good Syria demonstration picture 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)

BEIRUT - Unrelenting bloodshed in Syriacomplicated preparations by a team of UN observers on Tuesdayto monitor a truce that has brought only short-lived breaks inviolence since Syrian President Bashar Assad pledged to enforce itlast week.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the ceasefire hadbeen "generally observed" although there was still violence, butthe mission of 250 observers would be "not enough consideringthe current situation and the vastness of the country."

He said in Luxembourg that the United Nations was asking theEuropean Union to provide helicopters and planes to improve themobility of the operation, which he would propose formally tothe Security Council on Wednesday.

It was not clear whether Assad would agree to allow moreUN troops and foreign aircraft into the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, relaying reportsfrom anti-Assad activists, said at least two people were killedand dozens wounded by shelling as troops sought to take controlof Basr al-Harir in the southern province of Deraa. Activistssay the town has been a rebel stronghold.

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In the northern province of Idlib, government forces firedmortars and machine guns in two villages, killing three people,the Observatory said.

It said they also shelled the Khalidiya and Bayada districtsof Homs, where their artillery assault resumed on Saturday, twodays after the truce came into force. Streets of Homs held byrebels earlier this year now resemble scenes from World War Two.

The reported violence, a day after the Observatory said 23people were killed, greeted a UN team of six soldiers on theirsecond working day preparing for the mission.

Assad, who agreed a peace plan with UN-Arab League KofiAnnan more than three weeks ago, has apparently ignored itsprimary demand - that tanks, troops and heavy weapons bewithdrawn from populated areas and all forms of violence cease.

The US envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said therealities on the ground could jeopardize plans to extend themission, charged with overseeing an end to 13 months offighting.