New government demands cast doubt on Syrian cease-fire | News | DW | 08.04.2012
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New government demands cast doubt on Syrian cease-fire

The Syrian government has cast doubt on an international cease-fire plan after it demanded written guarantees from the rebels. Government forces have stepped up their attacks in recent days.

Fresh demands by the Syrian government have led to fears that a cease-fire deal meant to bring an end to the fighting in Syria is about to collapse.

Under the deal, brokered by United Nations and Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, Syria is meant to withdraw its troops from cities and towns by Tuesday, with a formal cease-fire to come into force two days later.

On Sunday, however, there was no sign of an end to the fighting, with many more people reported killed. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime also demanded written guarantees from the rebels, casting doubt on its intentions.

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Fresh Violence in Syria

“Syria has a plan for military pullback already in place and being implemented, but completing and achieving the main goal would definitely require the guarantees from the other side and those supporting them to abide by the terms of calm," foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said in a statement.

"[Kofi Annan] has not delivered until now written guarantees regarding the approval of terrorist armed groups to end violence and readiness to lay down its weapons," the statement said.

Annan hasn't directly responded to the Syrian demands, but in a statement released by his office in Geneva, he expressed shock at the latest violence.

"As we get closer to the Tuesday 10 April deadline, I remind the Syrian government of the need for full implementation of its commitments and stress that the present escalation of violence is unacceptable," he said.

Death toll rises

At least 21 people were killed in shelling and shooting in Homs, Deraa, Idlib, Deir al-Zor and Hama province on Sunday, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. These, like all other numbers coming out of Syria, are impossible to confirm due to a government ban on foreign journalists from reporting in the country.

"Mortar rounds are falling like rain," one activist, who claimed to be in Homs, told the Associated Press via Skype.

Government forces have reportedly stepped up their attacks since the cease-fire was agreed.

There were also signs on Sunday that the rebels don't have a great deal of faith in the process. The head of the self-styled Free Syrian Army, (FSA) Riad al-Asaad, told the Reuters news agency that he didn't believe the Assad regime had any intention of enforcing a break in fighting.

However, Colonel Qassem Saad al-Deen, a spokesman for the FSA, said they would comply with the terms of the cease-fire, at least initially.

"We will commit to the deadline even if they [government forces] do not pull back, we will cease fire as we have pledged to the UN," he said. "But if they fire we will pick up arms again and fight them," he added.

pfd/ccp (Reuters, AP)

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