Mood to lead UN observers in Syria

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The United Nations has, as expected, named Norwegian Major General Robert Mood to lead the UN observers in Syria. Norway’s former defense chief said he couldn’t think of anyone better qualified to do the job.

'Soldier and diplomat' Robert Mood, the Norwegian Major General who will be leading the UN's observer force in Syria. PHOTO: UN Info

The UN decided just before the weekend to send up to 300 unarmed observers to Syria during the next few weeks. An advance team is already in place and Mood traveled from the UN’s based in New York to Damascus during the weekend.

Mood, age 53, comes from the coastal town of Kragerø on Norway’s southern coast but has spent many years on duty in the Middle East. He’s also had duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan, in charge of soldiers in the field. He was in charge of UN observers in the Middle East until 2011 and has also served in Kosovo.

“He’s an officer completely out of the ordinary,” Sverre Diesen, former head of the Norwegian military, told newspaper Aftenposten on Saturday. “In addition to everything he’s had to do to be a major general and all the UN work he’s done, he has a unique network of contacts and is familiar with conditions in Syria and the main players in the country. No one else has such knowledge to such a degree.”

Mood faces what some consider to be the world’s most demanding job. The Syrian government and Syrian opposition have little if any confidence in one another, and recruitment will be difficult. Syria’s bureaucracy is also cumbersome, and the threat of violence is ever-present. There have been reports that Syrians seen talking to UN observers have been killed.

Diesen, however, called Mood a “calm and egalitarian person. He’s good at being both a soldier and a diplomat.”

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