An advance team of 16 United Nations observers is in Syria to try to salvage a ceasefire agreement that is part of a peace plan drawn up by the special envoy Kofi Annan. The head of the observer mission, Major General Robert Mood, said on Monday that his force could not solve the crisis, and urged the Syrian regime and its opponents to stop fighting.
"Ten, 30, 300 or 1,000 observers will not solve all problems. So everyone has to help us achieve this mission," Mood said in Damascus. His team is due to grow to 100 by mid-May, and eventually to 300.
An al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist group claimed responsibility on Monday for a suicide bombing in Damascus on Friday that killed at least 10 people. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statement from the Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant, which was posted on a militant website.
Earlier on Monday, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at the central bank and a police patrol in Damascus, wounding four officers, Sana reported. The bank's governor, Adib Mayaleh, said the only damage to the building was shattered windows.
He denied reports that Syria was trying to sell gold reserves to raise funds as international sanctions take their toll. The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said this month that the sanctions had reduced Syria's foreign currency reserves by half, from an estimated $17 billion at the start of the uprising.
Mayaleh said the bank did not need to sell gold "as we have a big quantity of hard currency that can stand up to all those attacks".
Intellpuke: You can read this Associated Press article, filed from Beirut, Lebanon, in context here: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/30/syria-two-suicide-bombings-idlib