Annan team in Damascus as UN backs truce ultimatum
DAMASCUS: A UN team sent by peace broker Kofi Annan arrived in Syria on Thursday to pave the way for observers, as the Security Council (SC) backed an April 10 deadline for the regime to end its deadly crackdown.
The advance team headed by Norwegian General Robert Mood, a Middle East specialist, would discuss with the authorities “the modalities of the eventual deployment of the UN supervising mission”, Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.
Annan had told the SC on Monday it should consider whether to send a mission to monitor events in Syria, where activists said more than 10,000 people had been killed since March 2011 in the crackdown on dissent.
Fawzi said the observers could be sent only after a SC resolution ordering their deployment.
The council formally backed the April 10 deadline that former UN chief Annan agreed with Damascus to end its military offensive on protest cities.
A statement called on Damascus to “begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to fulfil these in their entirety by no later than April 10, 2012.”
It also called “upon all parties, including the opposition, to cease armed violence in all its forms” within 48 hours of the above being implemented.
Annan told the UN General Assembly the Syrian government had claimed it has started a partial withdrawal from three cities but that “alarming levels” of deaths were still being reported.
He said the government had told him it had started a partial withdrawal from Idlib, Zabadani and Daraa but that this had not been confirmed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there was no sign of troop withdrawals, with regime forces launching fresh assaults on rebel strongholds, including a dawn raid on Douma near Damascus.
It said 38 people were killed nationwide, among them 17 civilians.
The Britain-based monitoring group said clashes between soldiers and rebels were reported in various parts of Douma, a town 13 kilometres northeast of the capital.
“What we expect on April 10 is that the Syrian government will have completed its withdrawal from populated centres and then we begin a 48-hour period during which there will be a complete cessation of all forms of violence by all parties,” Fawzi told reporters in Geneva.
“So the clock starts ticking on the 10th on both sides to cease all forms of violence,” he added.
On Monday, Annan said Assad had agreed to ‘immediately’ start pulling his troops out of protest cities and complete a troop and heavy weapons withdrawal by April 10.
But pro-government daily Al-Watan quoted a government official as saying Damascus is not bound by a deadline.
“There is no set date or deadline,” the unnamed official said.
“April 10 is the date set for the beginning, not the end, of the withdrawal of troops and it does not constitute a deadline.”
Annan will also travel to Tehran on April 11 to seek support from Syria’s ally for his peace plan.
On the ground, the Syrian Observatory said plumes of smoke could be seen near Douma’s main mosque as troop reinforcements were sent in.
Two young men were killed in Kfar Sousa, a neighbourhood of Damascus, when security forces opened fire on their car, it said. And two children were among four civilians killed in bombardment of the rebel town of Rastan in central Homs province. In the city of Homs, eight regime forces were killed and dozens wounded, and at least eight people were killed in fighting in Idlib province along with at least six regime forces, the observatory said. afp