U.N. peacekeeping advance team due in Syria within 2 days

GENEVA Tue Apr 3, 2012 7:23am EDT

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GENEVA (Reuters) - An advance team from the U.N. peacekeeping department is expected in Damascus within 48 hours to discuss deployment of observers to monitor a ceasefire in Syria, the spokesman for international mediator Kofi Annan said on Tuesday.

"A DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) planning mission should be arriving in Damascus within 48 hours," spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters in Geneva.

As part of the six-part peace plan put forward by Annan to halt the fighting, U.N. peacekeepers are planning for a ceasefire monitoring mission that would have 200 to 250 unarmed observers. It would require a Security Council resolution.

Syria has pledged to withdraw all military units from towns by April 10 to pave the way for a ceasefire with rebels two days later, though Western envoys were skeptical on Monday about Damascus' intent to halt its year-long assault on opponents.

Annan, joint special envoy of the United Nations and Arab League who is based in Geneva, briefed the Security Council on the deadline by videolink on Monday.

"Mr. Annan is grateful for the Russian and Chinese support and the unity that the Security Council again has shown in backing his plan and ensuring its implementation," Fawzi said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Patrick Graham)

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