Reuters: Syria violence endangers Annan’s ceasefire deadline
Syrian troops bombarded two restive cities on Tuesday, pursuing an assault on President Bashar al-Assad’s foes instead of halting the use of big guns and leaving towns as promised under an international peace plan that now looks in peril.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy shelling in the Khalidiya area of Homs and said rebels had killed six soldiers in attacks on two checkpoints on a road near the eastern desert town of Marqada, south of the Turkish border.
The rebel Free Syrian Army has said it will cease fire only if convinced that Assad’s forces have pulled back.
As the deadline for Damascus to implement the plan crafted by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan ran down, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem demanded guarantees from the former United Nations chief that armed insurgents would honor a truce.
“We will not ask the terrorist groups, which are killing, kidnapping and destroying infrastructure, for guarantees. We want Annan to give us these guarantees,” he said in Moscow.
China, which along with Russia, has blocked punitive U.N. Security Council action against Syria, said it hoped all sides would immediately obey a U.N.-backed ceasefire aimed at stopping a 13-month uprising from sliding into full-scale civil war.
Moscow and Beijing have both supported Annan’s plan, which diplomats say still gives Assad until midnight in Syria (2100 GMT) to start withdrawing troops from urban areas.