The leader of the UN monitoring mission in Syria declared himself "optimistic" over the chances for peace yesterday despite video evidence showing an intense bombardment of rebellious cities by regime forces.
A separate United Nations report, based on evidence obtained from refugees, accused the regime of shelling civilian areas but at the same time said the rebels were breaching the ceasefire.
However, UN officials said there was still a lower level of violence overall than before the ceasefire.
"We are going to organise ourselves in order to be ready to do our task as soon as possible," Col Ahmed Himmiche, the Moroccan army officer in charge of the advance team of monitors, said in Damascus as they began their mission with meetings with the Syrian authorities. "All peacekeepers are optimistic."
The UN report, compiled for its Human Rights Commission by a team of investigators, said the humanitarian situation was "deteriorating" and reported shelling in Homs, and the use of heavy weaponry and machine guns elsewhere.
It also singled out regular abuses by the rebels, saying: "The commission also continued to receive reports of human rights abuses committed by anti-government armed groups engaged in fighting against the Syrian army during and after the ceasefire, including extra-judicial killings of captured soldiers."
Last night, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose government drove the Arab League negotiations which led to the peace plan, gave a startling estimate of "three per cent" as its chances of success. He called for the opposition to be armed.
The Syrian National Council, the main opposition grouping, has backed the peace plan. But one member, Bassam Ishak, said: "The regime will continue to exploit diplomacy to gain time and opportunity to attack opposition and weaken it."
In a separate development last night, members of a Syrian opposition delegation said they had constructive talks with Russian diplomats in Moscow.
Hassan Abdul-Azim, head of the opposition National Coordination Body, said their meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and other Russian diplomats was "impressive and positive".
Abdul-Azim said the talks confirmed that "Russia, China and the international community represent the strong basis to stop violence and death of civilians and solve the crisis peacefully".
Russia, along with China, has twice shielded Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime from proposed UN sanctions over its deadly crackdown on the popular uprising. (© Daily Telegraph, London)