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Syria fighting rages as Annan urges ceasefire - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This image made from amateur video and released by Shaam News Network Wednesday, March 27, 2012, purports to show Syrian military tanks in Damascus, Syria. (AP)

This image made from amateur video and released by Shaam News Network Wednesday, March 27, 2012, purports to show Syrian military tanks in Damascus, Syria. (AP)

DAMASCUS, (AFP) – International envoy Kofi Annan urged Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to immediately implement a ceasefire, as fighting raged Friday even after the embattled leader said he had accepted the peace plan.

Activists, meanwhile, appealed for more mass demonstrations Friday to denounce Arab states for “abandoning” protesters by not backing calls to send arms to rebels fighting Assad’s forces.

UN-Arab League peacebroker Annan’s ceasefire appeal came as monitors said shells rained down on Homs, a main rebel bastion which has been the focus of much of President Assad’s year-long crackdown on anti-regime protests.

“We expect him to implement this plan immediately. Clearly we have not seen a cessation of hostilities on the ground. This is our great concern,” the spokesman said in Geneva, adding the “deadline is now” for Assad’s regime to end all violence.

The plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people.

“I can’t tell you what the next steps will be if they don’t stop now,” Annan’s spokesman said, adding however that Annan was due to brief the UN Security Council on Monday and “we will take it from there.”

Annan is also working to convince the Syrian opposition to “lay down their arms and start talking,” he said.

State-run news agency SANA said on Thursday that “President Assad… has informed Annan that Syria approves the plan (the envoy) submitted but had made remarks about it.”

Assad would “spare no effort” for the success of Annan’s six-point plan but said the proposal would only work if “terrorist acts” by foreign powers stopped.

A Britain-based monitoring group said at least five people were killed on Friday as the regime however continued a crackdown that the UN says has seen more than 9,000 people killed in the past year.

A sniper shot dead a civilian in the city’s Khaldiyeh district, and two others were killed when their car was fired upon elsewhere in the province of Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Security forces set alight four houses during raids in Jarjanaz, near the town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, where a sniper killed a 45-year-old civilian, it added.

At Irbin, near Damascus, a soldier was killed in an attack on a military checkpoint.

Fierce fighting was also reported in the provinces of Hama, in central Syria, and Deir Ezzor in the east, said the Local Coordination Committees, which organises anti-regime protests.

An Arab League summit in Baghdad on Thursday called for an end to the crackdown, for the opposition to unite and for parties to the conflict to launch a “serious national dialogue.”

The opposition had urged a harsher statement backing hardliners Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have called for Assad to step down and for rebels opposing his regime to be supplied with arms.

But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that giving weapons to either side “will lead to a regional and international proxy war in Syria.”

In response, Syrian activists blocked a street and burned tyres late Thursday in Damascus to protest the “failure of the Arab League,” according to a video posted online.

Internet-based activist group The Syrian Revolution 2011, one of the main motors of the uprising, called for more protests on Friday against the Arab world’s inaction.

“The Muslims and the Arabs have abandoned us… but God is with us… and our determination will carry us to victory,” the group said on Facebook.

In Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was holding talks with Saudi King Abdullah on Friday in a bid to crank up pressure on Assad.

She is due to attend a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group on Sunday.

“The main objective of this conference is to increase the pressure on the Syrian regime to end the bloody repression,” a Turkish official said.

Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbour, has been a vocal critic of Assad’s deadly crackdown.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Tehran that Syria should heed the will of its people by implementing political reforms and allowing free elections.

“The Syrian regime should be receptive to the will of its people, who want elections and democracy,” the Turkish leader said, according to an interview aired on Iranian state television late Thursday.

“If (President) Bashar al-Assad is not afraid, and is confident about his regime, he should allow the formation of new (political) parties,” Erdogan said.

Assad’s Baath party controls political life in Syria, which many fear is on the verge of civil war.

In this picture taken on Sunday March 25, 2012, a Syrian rebel stands guard in front of a damaged building, at Khaldiyeh neighborhood in Homs province, central Syria. (AP)

In this picture taken on Sunday March 25, 2012, a Syrian rebel stands guard in front of a damaged building, at Khaldiyeh neighborhood in Homs province, central Syria. (AP)

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (L) listens as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (not pictured) speaks during their meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing March 27, 2012. (Reuters)

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (L) listens as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (not pictured) speaks during their meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing March 27, 2012. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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