Syria seeks written guarantee for troop pullback
Damascus, April 8, 2012
Syria said on Sunday it wants "written guarantees" that insurgents will stop fighting before it implements a troop pullback agreed by President Bashar Al-Assad, putting the likelihood of an imminent truce into doubt.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said in a statement earlier reports that Damascus "confirmed that it will pull back its troops from and around cities on April 10 is a wrong explanation."
UN-Arab peace envoy Kofi Annan, he said, "has not delivered until now written guarantees regarding the approval of terrorist armed groups to end violence and readiness to lay down its weapons."
Meanwhile, Syrian forces loyal to Assad shelled an area in the rebellious province of Idlib near the border with Turkey on Sunday, killing and injuring dozens of people, opposition activists said.
Around 90 tanks and armoured vehicles, backed by helicopters, bombarded the al-Rouge Plain southwest of Idlib city, the provincial capital, activists inside Syria and on the border with Turkey told Reuters.
Fighters from the rebel Free Syrian Army were surrounded in al-Bashiriya, one of about 40 villages in the plain, activists added.
"The army is shelling Al-Rouge with tanks, and helicopters are firing rockets at al-Bashiriya. Tens of people have fallen dead or injured but we cannot get to them because the bombardment is heavy," said activist Mahmoud Ali, with the sound of helicopters audible on the phone.
A major Syrian army offensive to seize back large swathes of Idlib that had fallen under rebel control has killed and wounded hundreds of people in the last 10 days. Thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey. - Reuters