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Annan Says Assad Accepts Syria Peace Plan Deadline

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (center) speaks to soldiers during a tour of the restive Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs late last month.
The UN and Arab League's Syria envoy Kofi Annan has told the UN Security Council that Syria has agreed to complete the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from populated areas of the country by April 10.

The move is the first step of implementing Annan's six-point peace plan for Syria. If Annan is able to verify the Syrian military withdrawal, both sides would have 48 hours to cease hostilities.

That would open the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on April 2 that Washington would have preferred an earlier deadline and urged the Syrian government to start the withdrawal immediately.

Rice, the current Security Council president, also expressed skepticism about Syria's commitment, saying Damascus has made and broken promises over many months.
UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan
UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan

On April 1, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for "an immediate end to the killing in Syria" and pushed for Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad to be given a deadline to implement Annan's proposals.

"The world will not waiver," she said. "Assad must go and the Syrian people must be free to choose their own path forward."

Russia Wants Cease-Fire

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said only the UN Security Council could set a time frame in which the Syrian government has to comply with Annan's plan.

Lavrov, speaking on a visit to Armenia on April 2, said the peace plan would not work unless opposition fighters also agreed to a cease-fire.

Assad has announced that he agrees with Annan's proposals. But despite his promises to abide by the plan, his forces have continued their campaign to crush the opposition.

Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger was traveling to Damascus on April 2 for talks on expanding aid operations and gaining access to all detainees.

On the same day, Syrian activists said that more than 10,000 people have been killed since protests against Assad's regime began a year ago and government troops responded with deadly force.

The United Nations last week estimated that more than 9,000 people had been killed.

Millions Pledged To Rebels

Earlier, Russia's Foreign Ministry denounced the international "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul, saying it contradicted the objective of reaching a peaceful settlement to the yearlong conflict that has left thousands dead.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Arab and Western nations, including the United States, pledged on April 1 to provide millions of dollars and communications equipment to Syrian opposition groups.

The meeting also recognized the opposition Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of all Syrians.

The pledges came as Assad's regime faced criticism for failing to implement Annan's proposals to stop the bloodshed.

Russia, a longtime Syria ally, is a major arms supplier to Syria's government and has contracts with Assad's regime to operate a naval base on Syria's Mediterranean coast.

Russia and China have twice blocked UN Security Council resolutions that would have condemned Assad's regime for its crackdown on opponents.

Neither Russia nor China took part in the Istanbul conference.

Conference participants said Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries were creating a fund to provide money to fighters of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Clinton said that, in addition to humanitarian aid, the United States would be providing communications equipment to regime opponents "that will help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world."

The "Friends of Syria" forum met for the first time in Tunisia in February.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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