Thu, Apr 12, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Annan still sees hope for Syrian peace proposal

GOVERNMENT ASSAULT:The military shelled Homs yesterday and raided other parts of the country, killing at least three people as it tried to crush protest hubs

AFP, TEHRAN and BEIRUT

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan yesterday said there was still hope to salvage his tottering peace plan for Syria, while warning that Arab proposals to arm the rebels would be “disastrous.”

Speaking at a news conference in Tehran, Annan said that if both sides in the Syrian conflict respected his plan, “I think by six o’clock on Thursday the 12th ... we a should see a much improved situation on the ground.”

He said that a proposal by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give weapons to outgunned Syrian rebels would worsen matters.

“I’ve always said the militarization of the conflict will be disastrous,” he said.

Annan’s visit to Iran was seen as an appeal to Tehran’s influence over Syria as the clock ticked down to the deadline of 6am today in Damascus, by which time all combat is meant to cease.

Prospects of Annan’s plan succeeding, though, were dealt a blow on Tuesday when the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad failed to fulfill a commitment to withdraw forces from populated areas. Annan accused Damascus of moving its troops from some areas and moving them elsewhere during a visit he made on Tuesday to Turkey.

World powers worried the peace plan could be capsizing were expected to discuss the conflict yesterday in a G8 foreign ministers’ meeting in Washington.

Pressure is also building on the UN Security Council to act to impose conditions to end the bloodshed in Syria that has cost more than 9,000 lives according to a UN estimate.

Annan yesterday said al-Assad’s government had given “further clarifications” over how it views its obligations under the peace plan.

“What they mean and want is an assurance that the other forces, the opposition forces, would also stop the fighting so that we could see cessation of all the violence,” he said.

Annan said his team has “had positive answers from them” and that “governments with influence” had also been approached to ensure that all sides in the conflict respect the ceasefire.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, speaking next to Annan at the joint news conference, said: “We told Mr Annan that as long as the peace plan continues its approach, Iran will support it.”

Salehi reiterated that “any change that is to occur in Syria should be done by the Syrian government,” and voiced support for reforms al-Assad has promised to bring in for democratic elections and changes to Syria’s constitution.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces shelled the flashpoint city of Homs yesterday and raided other parts of the country, killing three civilians as they pressed their assaults on protest hubs, monitors said.

Forces loyal to al-Assad shelled and fired powerful guns at the old quarter of Khaldiyeh, as well as Juret al-Shayah, in the central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A civilian was shot dead in the Juret al-Shayah and two were shot dead in the town of Qurayyah, the Britain-based group said.

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