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UN Peacekeeping Chief Warns Of Al-Qaeda Presence In Syria

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has warned of the presence of terrorist groups in Syria trying to capitalize on the current unrest to achieve certain gains.

"We know that there are ... a third party, terrorist groups, who are trying to gain advantage for themselves... but we have to see this as an issue within Syria, between the Syrians," he told a press conference in the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday.

These people were not committed to the cause of the Syrian people, but committed to their own agenda. "So we have to keep a watchful eye what we are dealing with and what we must deal with is the issue between the Syrians themselves," he said.

"We do know that there had been terrorist attacks and bombings and that is something to be taken very seriously," he was quoted in media reports as saying. "Any further militarization of the crisis is not to be accepted... it's a crisis between the Syrians and there is no justification in fueling the fire," he added.

Ladsous said the main objective of his visit to Syria was to examine the deployment of the U.N. Supervision Mission in the violence-torn Arab country, adding that he was "very pleased by the rapidity by which they have been deployed."

He said there were 270 U.N. military observers in Syria now deployed in six cities. Ten more cities would be brought under U.N. observation soon. "I am not saying that the violence ceased altogether but clearly it diminished," he said, adding that he had met with government officials and the Opposition.

He said the job of the U.N. observers in Syria included getting access to prisons where a large number of Syrians were detained. "We simply do not know how many people are detained."

There are still some unresolved issues, he said and added that the Syrian government had confirmed its commitment to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's six-point plan to solve the Syrian crisis. "I think it's necessary to talk to all those who are involved, about how to get further towards a peaceful solution and how to stop violence."

Meanwhile, head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, Maj-Gen. Robert Mood, said He was sending Ladsous back to New York "with a different understanding of what Syria is about."

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