April 27, 2012 / 8:11 AM / in 7 years

Full advance monitor team in Syria by Monday - Annan aide

GENEVA (Reuters) - Fifteen more ceasefire monitors of a total advance team of 30 are expected to be in Syria by Monday and every effort is being made to deploy the full mission of up to 300 observers, the spokesman for international mediator Kofi Annan said on Friday.

“We expect the 30 will be on the ground by the end of April, on Monday,” Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters in Geneva.

“There is no delay, on the contrary it has been an extremely fast deployment of the 15 who are the ground today plus civilian support. They need administration and are setting up headquarters for the new mission.

“It is a whole process,” he said. “They are deploying at remarkable speed.”

The announcement of the deployment came as Syria’s pro-government Addounia television said three people were killed and 10 wounded in an “apparent suicide bombing” in the central Damascus district of Midan on Friday.

Syrian activists have been dismayed at the pace of observer deployment. A senior U.N. official said this week it would take a month to put the first 100 monitors on the ground, though the world body is working to speed up the pace.

Within 48 hours of the United Nations Security Council authorizing an advance team of 30 on April 14, six monitors were patrolling Syrian streets, Fawzi said.

Last Saturday, the 15-member Council agreed to send up to 300 unarmed military observers for three months, a force known as UNSMIS to be headed by Norwegian Major-General Robert Mood.

Fawzi said it is a time-consuming process to contact member states and for them to agree to transfer troops from other U.N. peacekeeping missions in the region.

“It takes time to get authorization from member states, to extract them (the observers), to equip them and put their gear and transport together,” he said.

“It doesn’t happen overnight... We are working flat out.”

Syria’s government and rebels have traded blame for a huge explosion which killed 16 people in Hama on Wednesday, as a two-week-old U.N.-backed ceasefire brokered by Annan looked increasingly fragile.

Two of the original team are now stationed in Hama and have visited the blast site, Fawzi said, giving no further details.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday the Syrian government had not complied with its pledge to the peace plan aimed at stopping the country from spiraling into civil war because it had not withdrawn heavy weapons and troops from cities.

Annan, in remarks to the Security Council on Tuesday, suggested that the government of President Bashar al-Assad was targeting people in areas where the monitors had met civilians.

He voiced particular alarm by reports that government troops had entered Hama a day earlier, after observers departed, firing automatic weapons and killing a significant number of people.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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