An advance UN team preparing the deployment of observers in Syria is expected in Damascus within the next two days.

A spokesman for UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said: "We expect the UN advance team on the deployment of monitors to arrive in Syria in the next 48 hours.

“They are there to work on the modalities of the deployment of monitors."

The mission will be headed by Norwegian general Robert Mood, a Middle East specialist, he said.

Mr Annan told the UN Security Council yesterday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had accepted a 10 April deadline to start implementing a peace plan and to complete a troop withdrawal by then.

He also said the UNSC had to consider whether to send an observer mission to monitor events in Syria.

The observers can be sent only after the UNSC passes a resolution ordering their deployment, and when there is a cessation of violence, the spokesman said.

The UN says around 9,000 people have been killed in a crackdown against protesters since March 2011.

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice had earlier warned that in the short term it was possible the violence in Syria might escalate.

Ms Rice said the US and other countries doubted that President Assad would carry out the new commitments.

She said: "Past experience would lead us to be sceptical and to worry that over the next several days, that rather than a diminution of the violence we might yet again see an escalation of the violence. We certainly hope that is not so."