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Syria's Assad wants rebels to halt attacks

Mar 30, 2012 11:48 IST

#Bashar al-Assad   #Syria   #TheySaidIt   #War/Conflict  

Beirut: Syria's President Bashar Assad has said he will spare no effort to make UN envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan a success, but demanded that armed opponents battling his regime commit to halting violence.

In brazen attacks, gunmen kidnapped a high-ranking military pilot outside the capital and assassinated two army colonels in the country's business hub on Thursday, in what appeared to be part of a stepped-up campaign by the battered opposition against the symbols of Assad's power.

The violence underlined the Syrian government's predicament: Acceptance and implementation of the UN plan, which calls for a full cease-fire, risks spelling the end of an autocratic regime which has relied largely on brute force to stay in power over the past four decades.

Assad's condition of an express promise from the opposition to stop attacks could complicate Annan's attempts to bring an end to more than a year of violence that the UN says has killed more than 9,000 people.

Reuters

The opposition has cautiously welcomed Annan's six-point plan, but it is also deeply skeptical Assad will carry it out, believing he has accepted it just to win time while his forces continue their bloody campaign to crush the uprising. Armed rebels are unlikely to stop fighting unless offensives by security forces halt. It is also difficult for rebel forces to uniformly stop fighting since there is no central command structure.

At an Arab League summit in the Iraqi capital, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby discussed the Syrian crisis and Annan's mission and they agreed "that it was imperative for president Assad to match his commitments with action," the UN spokesman's office said.

Arab leaders at the summit issued a resolution calling on Assad's regime to "immediately implement" Annan's proposals. The plan calls for Damascus to immediately stop troop movements and use of heavy weapons in populated areas and to commit to a daily two-hour halt in fighting to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations. It also calls for a full cease-fire to be supervised by the UN so that all parties can discuss a political solution.

In comments carried on Syria's state news agency, Assad said "Syria will spare no effort to make (Annan's) mission a success and hopes it would return security and stability to the country."

But he added that the UN envoy must "deal with the elements of the crisis in a comprehensive way" and get a commitment from armed groups to cease their "terrorist acts" against the government.

"To make Annan's mission a success, he should focus on drying up the sources that support terrorism against Syria," Assad added.

Throughout the crisis, Assad's regime has held that it faces not a popular uprising against his rule but a campaign of violence by terrorists.

In Aleppo, Syria's largest city, gunmen fatally shot two army colonels in the downtown Bab al-Hadid traffic circle in broad daylight. The state news agency SANA said the four attackers belonged to an "armed terrorist group." The officers, identified as Abdel-Karim al-Rai and Fuad Shaban, were on their way to work.

In eastern Ghouta, a suburb a few kilometers (miles) from Damascus, gunmen kidnapped pilot Mohammad Omar al-Dirbas, a brigadier, while on his way to work, SANA said. The agency did not say where the three worked or what their positions were.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Also Thursday, rebels ambushed an army truck and killed two soldiers in the central province of Hama, activists said. Fresh clashes also broke out between government troops and army defectors in the north and south.

Assad, in his comments Thursday, accused regional countries of funding and arming "terrorists" in Syria and cited the assassinations as proof that they did not want a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

AP