PARIS: French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday a ceasefire declaration by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was insincere and called for the creation of humanitarian corridors to help Syrians escape "massacres".
"I do not believe Bashar al-Assad is sincere," Sarkozy told news TV channel itele in an interview. "Sadly I do not believe this ceasefire."
Sarkozy, waging an uphill battle for re-election in a vote that opens on April 22, said he had discussed Syria with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday, including a U.N.-backed plan to send observers to the country to establish exactly what is happening on the ground.
The Security Council is set to vote on the observer mission later on Friday.
Paris, which has led calls for Assad to step aside, has repeatedly suggested creating a safe passage for relief organisations, with Syrian approval or an international mandate, to get food and medicine to civilians caught up in the fighting between Assad and his opponents.
"I firmly believe the international community should live up to its responsibilities and create the conditions for (setting up) humanitarian corridors so that these poor people who are being massacred can escape a dictator," Sarkozy said.
Under the French plan to bring in aid, humanitarian corridors would link the frontiers of Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, to the Mediterranean coast or to an airport.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said the zone could be protected by armed "observers", but has ruled out direct military intervention. Diplomatic sources say a U.N. resolution would be needed to create the corridors, but who would protect it, be it peacekeepers or unarmed observers, is unclear.
Syrian opposition activists called mass protests for Friday to test a fragile, day-old ceasefire, and international pressure mounted for Damascus to comply fully with a U.N.-backed peace plan.
Juppe said on Friday the Assad government had accepted as part of Arab League-U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan to end the violence and begin political dialogue to allow peaceful demonstrations.
"The demonstrations must be allowed to take place today and if the regime were to crack down on them, it would be a clear violation of its commitments," Juppe said. AGENCIES