Last Updated: Thu May 03, 2012 12:37 pm (KSA) 09:37 am (GMT)

U.N. admits Syria truce not holding, says number of observers to be doubled soon

The Chief of the U.N. Supervision Mission to Syria, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood talks to the media at his arrival to Damascus airport. (Reuters)
The Chief of the U.N. Supervision Mission to Syria, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood talks to the media at his arrival to Damascus airport. (Reuters)

The U.N. admitted a shaky three-week-old truce in Syria is not holding but said the number of observers would be doubled within days.

Despite the bloodshed, the head of a U.N. military observer mission said his team was having a positive effect, although the ceasefire was not holding.

Major General Robert Mood brushed off criticism that the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, or UNSMIS, had been too slow to get off the ground and said their numbers would double within days.

“This is not easy and we are seeing -- by the action, by explosions, by firing -- that the ceasefire is really a shaky one. It’s not holding,” the Norwegian general told Britain’s Sky News.

“But what we are also seeing on the ground is that where we have observers present, they have a calming effect and we’re also seeing that those operating on the ground, they take advice from our observers.”

However, Syria’s main opposition coalition urged observers to visit detention centers, saying there had been an “escalation of arrests.”

“The Syrian National Council calls on the Security Council to pass a resolution demanding the Assad regime stop the escalation in arrests, murders and torture of detainees, and demand their release,” the group said.

It also called for the observers to count the number of detained and “carry out frequent and unannounced visits to the prisons” of those locked up in the almost 14-month uprising.

More than 100,000 people have been detained since the outbreak of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which puts the number still behind bars at more than 25,000.

The United Nations has accused both the regime and its opponents of violating the ceasefire that is part of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The plan calls for a halt to fighting, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from urban areas, a daily humanitarian ceasefire, media access, an inclusive political process, and the right to demonstrate as well as the release of detainees.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the anti-regime uprising broke out in March 2011, according to U.N. estimates while the Observatory puts the figure at more than 11,100.

Human Rights Watch accused the regime of committing atrocities in the eastern province of Idlib shortly before the truce took effect.

“Syrian tanks and helicopters attacked one town in Idlib after another,” Anna Neistat, associate director for programs and emergencies at HRW, said in a statement.

A top U.S. Treasury Department anti-terror official, Daniel Glaser, is meanwhile embarking on a tour of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Israel and the United Arab Emirates to discuss sanctions against Syria as well as Iran.

Glaser will “highlight the need for governments and financial sectors to remain vigilant against attempts by the Syrian and Iranian regimes to evade multilateral sanctions,” the Treasury Department said.

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