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Archive for Saturday, March 31, 2012

Syria says it won’t be first to lay down arms

March 31, 2012

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— Syria rejected international envoy Kofi Annan’s call for the regime to halt violence first just days after the government agreed to a cease-fire plan. A senior official declared victory over the opposition.

It was the government’s first response to an appeal by Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, to stop military operations first as “the stronger party” in a “gesture of good faith” to the lightly armed opposition. Annan brokered the agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed, and Syrian president Bashar Assad agreed to it on Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.

“The battle to bring down the state in Syria has already ended, and the battle of reinforcing stability has started,” Makdessi said in an apparent reference to a string of recent regime offensives that drove rebels from key strongholds. He spoke on state TV late Friday.

Activists reported fresh violence Saturday that killed more than two dozen people. The U.N. estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising to oust Assad began a year ago.

The Foreign Ministry statement raised serious doubts about whether Annan’s plan to end the conflict will even get off the ground.

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