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Annan tells UN Council Syria hasn't complied with truce terms

12-04-2012
13:05
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U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Syria had not fully complied with the terms of a ceasefire, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said.
   
"Mr. Annan confirmed that what has happened today does not constitute full compliance by the Syrian government ... as Syrian forces and weapons remain in and around population centers," said Rice, the Security Council president for April.
   
"He emphasized that Syrian troops and armor must return to their barracks immediately," she said.

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said on Thursday that Group of Eight foreign ministers welcomed the report by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that violence in Syria had abated, "at least for the moment."
   
Speaking to reporters after the foreign ministers met in Washington, Clinton said the ceasefire in Syria was an important step, but was just one element of Annan's plan. She added that the plan was not a "menu of options" and that humanitarian groups must have access to Syria.

Withdrawing troops from Syrian towns and cities is just as important as the ceasefire, China's U.N. envoy said as Russia's U.N. ambassador said the Security Council could adopt a resolution on Friday approving unarmed U.N. observers.

"We fully support Kofi Annan's six-point plan and we believe the ceasefire is very important as is also pulling troops out of the towns and cities by the Syrian government ... very, very important," said Chinese U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong.
   
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that he hoped a resolution approving unarmed U.N. observers for Syria would be passed by the 15-nation panel on Friday. "It's crucial for the monitors to be on the ground," he said.

Syrian troops held their fire in the hours after a U.N.-backed ceasefire took effect at dawn on Thursday, casting a silence over rebellious towns they had bombarded heavily in recent days.    

But the lull did little to convince opposition activists and Western powers of President Bashar al-Assad's good faith in observing a peace plan agreed with international envoy Kofi Annan. In defiance of that deal, Syrian troops and tanks were still in position inside many towns, activists told Reuters.    

A report on state media that a "terrorist" bomb blasted an army bus and killed a senior officer in Aleppo after the truce began raised a possibility troops will keep a pledge to hit back. State media also reported a bomb wounding officers near Idlib and a ruling party member shot dead in Deraa in the south.    

The Syrian government bars access to most independent media.    

The exile opposition called the ceasefire "only partially observed" due to the army's failure to leave the streets and its leader urged a renewal on Friday of peaceful protests, which have been subdued of late by fear. But he warned those who might take part that they could expect government forces to open fire.   

The Interior Ministry urged rebels to surrender, promising to free those who had not killed, and broadcast an appeal to the thousands who fled battered cities like Homs and Hama to return from the havens they found in Turkey, Lebanon and within Syria.    

But streets in troubled towns remained nervously empty. An exile opposition spokeswoman said three people had been killed during the morning by security forces, and dozens more arrested.    

Speaking after the 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) U.N. deadline passed, Abu Rami, an activist in Homs said: "It was a bloody night. There was heavy shelling on the city ... But now it is calm, and there is no shooting." Assaults on restive neighborhoods had become more intense after Assad accepted Annan's timetable.    

Government spokesman Jihad Makdissi, speaking before the report of the bombing of the army bus, said Damascus was "fully committed" to Annan's success and that there would be no breach of the ceasefire by the government if the rebels did not attack.    

Burhan Ghalioun, exile head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), told Reuters he expected demonstrations on Friday after weekly prayers - a feature of the revolt that had been subdued by violence in recent months. But he did not trust the authorities who had their "hand on the trigger".    

"The Syrian people will go out tomorrow in the biggest possible numbers so that the Syrian people can express their will," Ghalioun said. "While we call on the Syrian people to protest strongly... we ask them to be cautious because the regime will not respect the ceasefire and will shoot."    

Russia and China, alarmed by the way last year's Security Council resolution on Libya led to military intervention against a sovereign state, have vetoed attempts to penalize Assad, although the United States, European Union and Arab League have imposed their own economic and political sanctions.    

China's Foreign Ministry called on the opposition to honor the truce, something the disparate rebel movements have said they are willing to do - although Western leaders and Annan's team have made clear the onus is on the government to act first.    

"China welcomes the government's relevant decision, which will help to ease tensions," the ministry said in a statement.

"China also calls on the Syrian armed opposition to immediately cease fire and implement Annan's six-point proposal."    

Reuters




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