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UN makes plans for peacekeeping force in Syria

A member of the Free Syrian Army fires from a heavy machine gun towards pro-government forces in Salqin city in Idlib October 22, 2012.

ASMAA WAGUIH/REUTERS

The United Nations has made plans to assemble a peacekeeping force for Syria if a ceasefire proposed by a special envoy takes hold, a top UN official said Monday.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous stressed however that planning was very tentative while fighting rages in Syria and would be dependent on the UN Security Council overcoming its bitter divisions on the 19-month-old conflict.

"We are getting ourselves ready to act if it is necessary and a mandate is approved," Mr. Ladsous told reporters when asked about reports of the force being prepared.

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UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi appealed to President Bashar al-Assad at the weekend to observe a ceasefire during a Muslim holiday this week. Fighting has shown no sign of easing, however.

Mr. Ladsous said a figure of 3,000 troops in a force for Syria, given by some media reports, was "completely theoretical".

Any force would need the approval of the 15-nation Security Council, which has been deadlocked on Syria since the start of the conflict.

Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions which could have led to a threat of sanctions against the Assad government.

A UN observer mission was sent to Syria for three months this year. But the 300 unarmed troops were withdrawn because of the mounting dangers and the Assad government's rejection of political moves to end the crisis.

"Right now the focus is really on Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to achieve a ceasefire, whether temporary or more durable," Mr. Ladsous said, dampening immediate hopes for a force.

But he added: "I would confirm that of course we are giving a lot of thought to what would happen if and when a political solution, or at least a ceasefire would emerge."

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He went on to say that "subject to what the Security Council might decide eventually, we are giving thoughts to what we could do contribute ... within in the framework of a solution, to provide security, to possibly protect civilians."

Mr. Ladsous said the size of any force would depend on the tasks it was given.

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