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UN warns of foreign militants fighting in Syria

A growing problem in the conflict in Syria is the influence of foreign militants who might be after their own agendas, according to the head of the Syria panel of the UN Human Rights council.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro's remarks on Tuesday said the presence and increased influence of "foreign militants, radical Islamists or jihadists, worries us very much."

"Their presence can contribute to radicalization," he added, saying such fighters are particularly dangerous in such a volatile conflict.

One of the dangers is that foreign fighters may be fighting with their own interest - rather than the interest of democracy building in Syria - at heart.

Pinheiro also said that human rights violations on both sides of the conflict had been escalating in recent months, but that government forces are committing violations on a higher scale than the opposition.

The UN Human Rights Council has tasked Pinheiro's team with investigating human rights violations in Syria. Their mandate has been extended until March 2013.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, both the Syrian government and the exiled opposition have said they would be open to a ceasefire over the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday at the end of the month. This had been proposed by the UN's Syrian envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

However, both sides stipulated any participation in a ceasefire would be contingent on the cooperation of the other.

mz/jm (AP, AFP)