Middle East

Syria ceasefire: UN plans to send observers 'in days'

A draft UN Security Council resolution has outlined plans to send monitors to Syria to oversee compliance with a UN and Arab League-backed peace plan.

The draft, prepared by the US, is expected to be voted on at the Security Council on Friday, with a monitoring team arriving by early next week.

A ceasefire at the core of the peace plan is largely holding.

But at least three people were reportedly killed on Friday, as large protests were held in several places.

One person was killed by security forces as anti-government demonstrators tried to reach the main square in the central city of Hama, activists said.

Another was shot dead after Friday prayers in the town of Nawa, in the southern province of Deraa, while the third died in the town of Salqin, in the north-western province of Idlib, they added.

The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activist network, said shots were fired by security forces at several locations on Friday in a bid to disperse protests.

A number of civilians were killed on Thursday, after the ceasefire came into effect at 06:00 (03:00 GMT), activists said, while the government said a bomb attack had killed one soldier.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says it could be some time before a full picture emerges, but that the impression is the breaches of the ceasefire have not been as serious as some had feared.

A spokesman for UN and Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, who drew up the peace plan, said it had been "relatively respected", but that the envoy was "aware that we don't have a perfect situation" in Syria.

"There are detainees that need to be released, humanitarian corridors need to be opened," said Ahmed Fawzi, although he noted that Syria had granted entry visas to 74 media organisations.

Assad 'insincere'

The draft UN Security Council resolution calls on the Syrian government and opposition groups to comply with all aspects of Mr Annan's peace plan, including troop withdrawals and an end to "all armed violence in all its forms".

It threatens unspecified "further measures" if the Syrian government "does not implement its commitments".

The team of 10 to 12 observers would monitor the ceasefire and check the Syrian military was withdrawing from population centres in accordance with the peace plan.

Mr Fawzi said they were "standing by to board planes and get themselves on the ground as soon as possible" and would be followed by a larger mission of some 250 observers.

Security Council diplomats - including those of Russia and China, who have vetoed previous resolutions - have all backed the idea of observers.

The ceasefire formally came into effect on Thursday - both sides vowed to observe it, but reserved the right to respond if attacked.

Mr Annan said Syria had not fully complied with the deal as it had yet to withdraw troops and heavy weaponry from towns and cities.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the ceasefire was important but was just a first step.

Humanitarian groups must have full access, she said, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would "have to go", a step which is not included in the peace plan.

Mrs Clinton said the US supported the deployment of an advance team immediately.

But she said the group, as well as any full monitoring mission would "need complete freedom of movement, unimpeded communications, and access throughout the country and to all Syrians, as well as firm security guarantees from all parties."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday that he did not "believe in Bashar al-Assad's sincerity, nor unfortunately in the ceasefire", and said the international community should "assume its responsibilities and create humanitarian corridors so those unfortunates who are being massacred by a dictator can escape".

The UN estimates that about 9,000 people have died since anti-government protests began in March 2011.

BBC map

In February, the Syrian government put the death toll at 3,838 - 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.