Syria tank Homs 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - Syrian troops killed 31 people on Tuesday, pursuing a fierce
assault on President Bashar Assad's opponents instead of silencing their
big guns and leaving towns as promised under a fraying international
United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said it was "a bit too early" to dismiss as a failure his attempt to halt 13 months of conflict. "The plan is still on the table," he told a news conference in Turkey after visiting Syrian refugee camps.
The former UN chief's plan, which calls for Syrian troops to pull back by the end of the day on Tuesday, won backing from Assad's friends in Russia and China, as well as from Western, Arab and other nations struggling to find a way to deflect the Syrian leader from his bloody crackdown on a popular uprising.
Annan said he had information the Syrian military was withdrawing from some areas but moving to others not previously targeted. He appealed to all sides to stop violence and to set no conditions for a ceasefire due to start at dawn on Thursday.
"I had hoped that by now we would have been much further ahead along the road to the government of Syria honoring its commitments and all the parties beginning to take steps to end all violence," he said, reiterating Thursday's deadline. "We still have time between now and the 12th to stop the violence."
The worst bloodshed Tuesday was in the city of Homs, where
shelling of opposition districts killed at least 26, activists said.
Opposition groups said there was no sign of a military pullout, with
tanks still in cities such as Homs and Hama.
images, a French foreign ministry spokesman endorsed that view and
denounced a Syrian assurance that troops were, in fact, withdrawing as a
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Nor did rebels immediately stop shooting. The
anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said insurgents killed
six soldiers in attacks on checkpoints on an eastern desert road.
As the end-of-day deadline loomed for Damascus to implement the ceasefire plan, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem demanded guarantees
from Annan,that armed insurgents would also honor any truce.
will not ask the terrorist groups, which are killing, kidnapping and
destroying infrastructure, for guarantees. We want Annan to give us
these guarantees," Mouallem said in Moscow.
last-minute demand, a variant of one Syria made at the weekend, is not
mentioned in Annan's proposals and looks designed to complicate his
struggle to get all parties to comply with a six-point plan that is so
far largely a dead letter.
The rebel Free Syrian Army will fight
on if Assad fails to withdraw troops and tanks from in and around cities
as required, a spokesman, Colonel Qassem Saad al-Deen, told Reuters.
opposition Syrian National Council said a partial ceasefire was
unacceptable and government forces should stop all violence on Tuesday.
Its spokeswoman, Basma Kodmani, also told a news conference in Geneva
that arrests, house demolitions and shelling by tanks and anti-aircraft
guns were continuing.
The Local Coordination Committees, a
grassroots activist group, said Assad's "corrupt criminal regime" was
only trying to buy time to impose its will by force, and chided the
United Nations and Arab League for failing to restrain Damascus.
violence has alarmed Syria's neighbors, especially Turkey which already
hosts almost 25,000 Syrian refugees. At least five people, including
two Turkish citizens, were wounded by cross-border fire into a refugee
camp in Turkey on Monday.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Assad
of personal responsibility for killing civilians and threatened an unspecified response to the cross-border shooting.
is continuing to kill 60, 70, 80, 100 every day," Erdogan said during a
visit to Beijing. Assad's troops were "mercilessly" shooting fleeing
women and children in the back.
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