UK & World News
UN Team To Monitor Syria's Fragile Ceasefire
An advance team of United Nations observers is to head to Syria to begin monitoring the ceasefire in the conflict-torn country, amid reports of fresh violence.
The UN Security Council has unanimously voted in favour of sending a team to the country.
The vote, made on a Western-Arab UN draft resolution, comes two days after the truce between the Syrian government and anti-regime protesters began.
Resolution 2042 calls on President Bashar al Assad's regime to allow access for the first wave of monitors.
Up to 30 unarmed military observers are expected to leave within days.
A new resolution with a full mandate will be required for the full monitoring mission of around 250 observers.
The Council has also threatened to consider "further steps" if Syria does not "implement visibly" all its commitments under UN special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
It includes the withdrawal of all troops and heavy guns from Syrian cities, permitting humanitarian and media access, releasing prisoners and discussing a political transition.
In a statement, UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon said the Syrian government had the "primary responsibility" to adhere to the peace plan.
Russia and China, which had twice vetoed UN resolutions condemning the Syrian regime, joined the rest of the Council to authorise the observer force.
The vote had been expected on Friday but was held up by Russian objections to the text.
Russia's ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that "substantive changes" had been made to make it "more balanced."
In the re-written draft, wording had been changed and weakened slightly, in some cases from "demands" to "calls upon" or "requests".
Meanwhile, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists in the city of Homs said shelling had wounded several people overnight.
Activists said four people were killed after forces opened fire at a funeral in Aleppo.
Rebel gunmen also apparently ambushed a car carrying soldiers in the southern province of Deraa.
Syrians took to the streets across the country in small demonstrations on Friday, trusting the truce would put an end to the bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months.
But Syrian forces loyal to President Assad shot dead five protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported, adding that security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters mounting major rallies.
France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud said sending the advanced force of observers would "test whether Syria is serious about its engagements" before authorising the full mission.
He said the reported violence Homs had raised "some doubt" about the intentions of Mr Assad's government.
Western envoys have also raised doubts about whether Mr Assad would stick to the ceasefire and keep to commitments made to Mr Annan.
The UN estimates that Mr Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising began. Authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed militants who they say have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and police.