Syrian violence threatens UN observer mission

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Further doubts were cast about the future of the UN peacekeeping mission in Syria yesterday as the head of the team said a surge in violence over the past 10 days had put his unarmed observers at increasing risk.

Major General Robert Mood said the two sides were showing a "lack of willingness" to find a peaceful solution and were instead concerned primarily with advancing their military positions. He said the worsening violence was likely to affect the UN Security Council's decision on whether the monitors should remain in Syria after their mandate expires next month.

"Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying, again willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers," said the Norwegian officer. "There is a concern among the member states providing observers that the risk level is becoming approaching the level where they are not willing to accept it any more."

Meanwhile, there were yet more accusations of brutality in the country yesterday.

Human Rights Watch, based in the US, released a report accusing President Bashar al-Assad's forces of using rape and sexual violence against men, women and children during the uprising, saying it had conducted interviews with eight victims.