- Associated Press - Monday, April 2, 2012

UNITED NATIONS — International envoy Kofi Annan told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that Syria informed him its military will complete the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from populated areas by April 10.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Annan received a letter from Syria’s foreign minister on Sunday with the April 10 date and indicated he would have preferred an earlier deadline. She said Annan urged the Syrian government to start the withdrawal immediately and move no further into populated areas, and “that commitment was provided.”

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’fari said the April 10 deadline was set “by common accord” between Annan and the Syrian government, and he again pledged his government’s complete support for Annan’s six-point plan to end the yearlong Syrian crisis.

But Rice, the current Security Council president, expressed skepticism about Syria’s commitment, saying that Damascus has made and broken promises over many months.

“We have seen commitments to end the violence followed by massive intensifications of violence,” Rice said. “So the United States, for one, would look at these commitments and say, yet again, the proof is the actions, not in the words.”

She added: “Past experience would lead us to be skeptical and to worry that over the next several days rather than a diminution of the violence, we might, yet again, see an escalation of the violence. We certainly hope that is not so. We hope the Syrian authorities will implement the commitments they made without condition or codicils.”

Annan’s plan to end Syria’s crisis calls for an immediate withdrawal of troops and heavy military equipment from populated areas, followed by an overall cease-fire — first by government forces and then by opposition fighters — to pave the way for talks by all Syrian parties on a political solution. It includes an immediate daily two-hour halt to fighting so humanitarian aid can reach suffering civilians, and unhindered access for humanitarian groups and the media.

Rice stressed that the Syrian agreement was just on the pullout of troops and equipment from cities and towns.

She said Annan is expecting details from the Syrian government “very shortly” on the other aspects of the plan.

One of the key issues is trying to unite the many different opposition factions under a single umbrella.

Rice said Annan’s deputy, Nasser Al-Kidwa, has had “constructive exchanges with the opposition to urge them to cease their operations within 48 hours of a complete cessation of government hostilities.”



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