UN Security Council votes to expand Syrian mission

Five UN truce monitors ventured yesterday into one of the hardest-hit strongholds of the Syrian uprising and were thronged by residents clamouring for foreign military aid to oust President Bashar Assad.

Late in the day, the UN Security Council voted to expand the observer mission to 300 and renewed a call for an immediate halt to violence. The resolution gives Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon authority to decide when to deploy more observers, based on developments including "the consolidation of the ceasefire".

Mr Ban has accused Mr Assad of failing to honour the truce.

The truce and observer mission are part of special envoy Kofi Annan's plan for ending 13 months of violence and starting talks between the President and those trying to oust him. Syria's opposition and its Western supporters suspect Mr Assad is paying lip service to the plan, as full compliance, including pulling troops off the streets and allowing peaceful protests, could quickly sweep him from power.

So far, the regime has continued attacking opposition strongholds, though on a smaller scale than before the truce deadline. State-run Syria media also have reported rebel ambushes and roadside bombs targeting troops.

Despite the violations, the international community sees Mr Annan's plan as the only option. Russia and China have shielded Syria, Western powers oppose military intervention, and Gulf countries have failed to keep promises of funding rebels.