By MICHAEL ASTORAssociated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United Nations is already planning for a peacekeeping force in Syria should a cease-fire in that country take hold and pending a Security Council mandate, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Monday.
Herve Ladsous said, however, it was still too early to say how many peacekeepers might be deployed in such an eventual force.
"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 cease-fire would emerge," Ladsous told reporters at a U.N. briefing.
U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday as part of his push for a cease-fire between rebels and government forces for the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins Oct. 26.
Syria's state-run news agency SANA said Damascus supports the truce proposal, but would not commit to halting fire during a four-day Muslim holiday until Western countries and their Gulf allies stop supporting rebels and halt their weapons supplies to the anti-regime fighters.
Brahimi told reporters, following a closed-door meeting, that he also had held talks earlier with opposition groups inside and outside the country and received "promises" but not a "commitment" from them to honor the cease-fire.
Brahimi replaced Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria after the former U.N. secretary-general resigned last August, frustrated by a lack of progress.
Under Annan's peace plan the U.N. sent a 300-strong unarmed observer mission to Syria to oversee the cessation of violence but the team was forced to withdraw in August because of escalating fighting which has continued until today.
"It's a shocking fact that everyday 150 to 200 civilians are killed and it has almost become part of the background noise and it is simply unacceptable," Ladsous said.
Diplomats say that Ladsous has told Brahimi he could put together a force of up to 3,000 peacekeepers in the event a longer truce took hold.
But Ladsous said, "it certainly would be premature to mention a figure because it would depend on the situation."
The deployment of any U.N. peacekeeping force would be contingent on the approval of the 15-member Security Council, which has long been deadlocked over the issue of Syria. Permanent members Russia and China have to date vetoed three resolutions on Syria because they threatened sanctions against Assad's government.
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