Sat, April 07, 2012
World > Middle East

Doubts cast on Syria' pledge to meet UN pullout deadline

2012-04-06 21:56:32 GMT2012-04-07 05:56:32(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

DAMASCUS, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Syria's continued crackdown on opposition forces and the latter's reluctance to lay down weapons cast doubts on the government's pledge to meet the April 10 deadline set by the UN to withdraw forces from protest hubs.

Despite the government's assurance to honor the pledge, activists claim that violence has increased and report daily killings of dozens in the south and north of the country as well as the suburbs of the capital Damascus.

Syria has announced its approval of a six-point plan aimed at a ceasefire by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League joint envoy to Syria. But the government has also requested a written guarantee that the armed groups will respond in line with the government's pledge.

Syria, in a message sent to the UN Security Council chief on Friday, claimed that terrorism in the country has stepped up following Annan's mission.

In a recent statement, the Security Council urged the Syrian government to comply with the plan after its approval, particularly the April 10 deadline.

Moreover, UN chief Ban Ki-moon was uncertain if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would meet the deadline.

"Despite the Syrian government's acceptance of the joint special envoy's plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped," Ban said.

The UN estimated that more than 9,000 people have so far been killed in the Syrian conflict, including at least 500 children.

A top Syrian official said late Thursday that the Security Council's statement "will not encourage the implementation of Annan's mission," and called on Annan to obtain a written guarantee from the opposition promising a halt of attacks on the government troops.

The senior official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the statement by the Security Council works against Syria, noting that while the government has gestured positively, there has not been "any commitment from the other side so far."

"The deadline would pose a big challenge to Annan because the other part has not presented any commitment to halting attacks," said the official. "Syria is committed to implement Annan's mission so long as the other party shows commitment to stopping attacks," he said.

Taleb Ibrahim, a Syrian analyst, said the Syrian government is able to abide by the plan and it will pull back troops out of the restive cities but not back to the barracks, adding that the government would "retain the army's right to interfere should the security of the state ... is threatened."

"We, in return, demand a written commitment by Annan that the other party would halt its assaults and lay down weapons, as well as to hand over all gunmen who had committed crimes," he told Xinhua. "Otherwise, the army would continue its operations in crushing armed gangs."

Ibrahim said Annan's mission was in fact not in Syria's interest "because the army was on the verge of crushing the armed groups and this plan has actually salvaged them."

He said the armed groups have no central leadership and comprises loosely-linked Salafists, Muslim brotherhood, drug traffickers and al-Qaida fighters.

Nevertheless, Louay Hussein, an opposition figure, accused the Syrian government of maneuvering to evade its obligations.

"This request (a written pledge) is illogical because armed groups are made of multiple parties and have no central leadership and it's impossible to take such pledge," he said in a phone interview with Xinhua.

"The government wants to illustrate itself as a victim of the armed groups instead of owning up to its practices," he said, adding that "we, as opponents, would undertake to enter restive areas and convince gunmen to halt their operations if the government carried out its pledges."

Analysts believe that the Syrian government is racing against time to crush the revolt prior to April 10, which would determine the country's future.


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