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Syria needs time for safe army withdrawal, official says

BEIRUT - Syria has said a year-long revolt against President Bashar Assad is now over, but that it would retain its right to use its forces to "maintain security" before withdrawing from cities in line with a UN-backed peace plan.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told Syria TV that United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan had acknowledged the government's right to respond to armed violence. Makdissi said that handling this was a Syrian matter.He said Syria would cooperate with the United Nations to "remove any excuses" for further international pressure.
"The battle to topple the state is over. Our goal now is to ensure stability and create a perspective for reform and development in Syria while preventing others from sabotaging the path of reform," Makdissi told the state news channel late on Friday.
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