DAMASCUS, April 9 (BSS/AFP) - A peace plan for Syria was in jeopardy Monday after a rebel commander rejected fresh conditions from the government for a pullout of regime troops from protest hubs amid a new spike in violence.
Under a peace deal brokered by Kofi Annan, the former UN
chief, the Syrian army was scheduled to withdraw from protest
cities on Tuesday, with a complete end to fighting set for 48
But the Damascus regime has since said it would only carry
out its side of the bargain if rebels first handed over written
guarantees to stop fighting, a demand rejected by rebel army
chief Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad.
"We are committed to the Annan plan," the colonel who heads
the Free Syrian Army, made up mostly of deserters from the Syrian
military, told AFP in Beirut.
"We will present our guarantees and our commitments to the
international community, but not to this (Syrian) regime."
The regime demand came as a weekend escalation in violence
claimed almost 180 lives, most of them civilians, a surge in
bloodshed that Annan described as "unacceptable." Monitors said
51 people were killed on Sunday, a day after nearly 130 died
across Syria, while 200 others were arrested in raids by
government forces pushing to crush dissent.
In a statement in Geneva, Annan urged the government in
Damascus to respect its commitments on troop withdrawals.
"I remind the Syrian government of the need for full
implementation of its commitments and stress that the present
escalation of violence is unacceptable."
"This is a time when we must all urgently work towards a
full cessation of hostilities, providing the space for
humanitarian access and creating the conditions for a political
process," Annan said.
Earlier, the Syrian foreign ministry outlined the new
conditions in a statement.
"To say that Syria will pull back its forces from towns on
April 10 is inaccurate, Kofi Annan having not yet presented
written guarantees on the acceptance by armed terrorist groups of
a halt to all violence," the statement said.
It said that the regime was also awaiting written guarantees
from the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey "on
stopping their funding to terrorist groups," referring to the
regime's key regional critics.
"Syria is not going to repeat what happened in the presence
of Arab observers when armed forces left towns," the foreign
ministry said, referring to a failed Arab monitoring mission at
the turn of the year.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council formally endorsed the
Tuesday deadline for a ceasefire, but Damascus said a day later
that the number of "terrorist acts" has risen since the deal was
agreed with Annan, the UN and Arab League envoy.
Annan "said he would work to stop the violence, disarm armed
groups... initiate a comprehensive national dialogue with
opposition movements," when he met President Bashar al-Assad last
month, the ministry said.
"It is this principle on which Syria accepted Annan's
mission and his six-point plan."
France denounced as "unacceptable" the fresh Syrian demands
in a strongly worded foreign ministry statement.
It also condemned what it called the "continuing massacres"
and renewed French support for Annan.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem is scheduled to travel
to ally Moscow on Monday.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been
killed since anti-regime protests broke out in March 2011, while
monitors put the number at more than 10,000.
The main umbrella opposition group the Syrian National
Council called for UN intervention after monitoring groups said
86 of nearly 130 people killed on Saturday were civilians.
"We urge the UN Security Council to intervene urgently to
stop the humanitarian crisis caused by the regime ... by adopting
a resolution under Chapter 7 to ensure the protection of
civilians," the SNC said.
Another 26 civilians, 17 soldiers and eight deserters were
killed across the country on Sunday, monitors said.
Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said a
humanitarian intervention under the protection of military forces
could be the next stage if the Annan plan is not respected.