- - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BEIRUT — Syrian troops shelled and raided opposition strongholds nationwide on Tuesday, activists said, prompting an urgent appeal by international envoy Kofi Annan to the Syrian regime to halt violence and give his truce plan a chance.

Syria’s foreign minister claimed that regime forces have begun withdrawing from some areas in compliance with Mr. Annan’s plan, which requires Syrian forces to pull back from towns and villages on Tuesday and both sides to cease all hostilities by 6 a.m. Thursday.

However, activists said Syrian forces carried out new attacks and that there were no signs of a withdrawal.

In a news conference in Hatay, Turkey, Mr. Annan insisted that his plan had not failed and Syria still had time to comply.

“We still have time between now and the 12th to stop violence,” he said. “I appeal to all, the government in the first place,” to halt fighting.

He also said violence must stop without conditions.

Mr. Annan said the U.N. Security Council would take up the issue later Tuesday.

The main Syrian opposition group, meanwhile, estimated that about 1,000 people had been killed in escalating regime attacks in the week leading up to Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline, though such figures cannot be verified independently.


Tunis in shock after ‘Black Monday’ crackdown

TUNIS — Tunisia was in shock Tuesday after riot police brutally clamped down on protesters defying a demonstration ban in the capital, with even President Moncef Marzouki denouncing “unacceptable violence.”

“Black Monday,” “fascist behavior” and “savagery” were among the harsh comments after some of the worst violence since last year’s revolution, which led to the downfall of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

At least 15 civilians and eight policemen were hurt as riot police on Monday fired tear gas and baton-charged protesters who had turned out in the hundreds on a main avenue in Tunis despite a ban on demonstrations there.

Outside the capital, dozens of protesters attacked the ruling Ennahda Party offices in the eastern town of Monastir on Monday but did not manage to storm the building, Nejib Mrad, a lawmaker for the moderate Islamist party, told Agence France-Presse.


Israel to prevent entry of protesters

JERUSALEM — Israel is vowing to prevent the entry of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists expected to arrive in the country this weekend.

Activists are set to board flights for Israel’s international airport with the aim of participating in nonviolent anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank. Israel views the campaign as a provocation and plans to deport the protesters.

Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said Tuesday the “provocateurs will be dealt with in a determined and quick way.”

Israel denied entry to dozens of people in the campaign’s first attempt last year, and very few entered the country.

Organizers say they want to draw attention to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.


Fugitive vice president arrives in Turkey

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s fugitive vice president was in Turkey on Tuesday, his third stop in what he says is an official visit to regional countries. The trip risks complicating Baghdad’s relations with its neighbors.

A statement issued late Monday by the office of Tariq al-Hashemi, the top Sunni official in Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, said he arrived in Istanbul and plans to meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss developments in the region.

It isn’t clear how long Mr. al-Hashemi intends to stay in Istanbul. Mr. Erdogan is on an official visit to China.

Mr. al-Hashemi is wanted in Iraq on terror charges for allegedly running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials and security forces.

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government issued a warrant for his arrest in December, touching off a political crisis in Baghdad and deepening the country’s sectarian divide just days after the U.S. military withdrawal.

Mr. al-Hashemi, who has denied the charges and says they are politically motivated, took refuge in the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq, where he is effectively out of reach from state security forces loyal to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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