2012-04-05 19:31:46

violence Rises as Syrian Deadline Nears

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (not pictured) in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2012. Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that Syria's conflict is deepening and attacks on civilian areas show no sign of abating, despite assurances from Damascus that it has begun withdrawing troops under an international peace plan.

Residents of at least one area under fire from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad poured scorn on the official assertions that troops were pulling back in several cities before a ceasefire which is supposes to start on April 10.

International envoy Kofi Annan, whose plan aims to end a year of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad, said that "more far-reaching action is urgently required" to silence the tanks and halt all forms of violence.

Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Ban gave a pessimistic assessment of the situation in Syria.

"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. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate," Ban said.

The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the conflict which began with peaceful protests, although armed rebels later began fighting back. Syria told the world body this week that 6,044 had died, including 2,566 soldiers and police.

The Security Council agreed on Thursday to a statement urging Syria to meet Annan's deadline.

Annan, a joint envoy of the U.N. and Arab League, said both the government and opposition must stop fighting at 6:00 a.m. local time on April 12, if Damascus meets its deadline next Thursday to silence its weapons.

"I urge the government and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level," Annan told the U.N. General Assembly by video link from Geneva.

"We must silence the tanks, helicopters, mortars, guns and stop all other forms of violence too - sexual abuse, torture, executions, abductions, destruction of homes, forced displacement and other abuses, including on children," he said.

ACTION URGENTLY REQUIRED

Annan, a former U.N. chief, said Damascus had told him troop withdrawals were underway, but he said more needed to be done.

"The government has informed me of partial withdrawals from three locations - Idlib, Zabadani, and Deraa. I await further action and fuller information," he said.

"The government has indicated that it will continue to update me on steps it is taking. But it is clear that more far-reaching action is urgently required."

One Zabadani resident said no significant withdrawal was underway. "They are complete liars, there is no army withdrawal, they are still in the middle of the city. They fired on the city this morning, like they do every day," a man calling himself Abu Mustafa said by telephone from Zabadani near the Lebanon border.

"The army withdrew 15 tanks yesterday, but the rest are all around the checkpoints as usual," Abu Mustafa said.

Syria

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