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Despite Syria cease-fire, more than a dozen reported killed

But Kofi Annan says he is encouraged that the day is 'relatively quiet.' A draft resolution for a U.N. monitoring mission could be voted on as early as Friday.

April 12, 2012|By Alexandra Sandels, Los Angeles Times
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends a news conference about the situation in Syria at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends a news conference about the… (Sandro Campardo, Associated…)

BEIRUT — Just hours into a cease-fire between the Syrian government and the opposition, the truce was already on shaky ground as more than a dozen people were reported killed and there was no sign that government tanks and heavy weapons had been withdrawn from contested areas.

A draft resolution for a United Nations advance monitoring mission could be voted on as early as Friday in an effort to end unrest in the 13-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Diplomats who met Thursday said a force as large as 200 could eventually be sent to Syria if both sides pledge to honor the peace plan.

U.N. and Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that he was encouraged that the day had been "relatively quiet" and that the cease-fire appeared to be holding.

But behind closed doors at the Security Council, Annan was more critical and said that the Syrian government had failed to implement the plan, the Associated Press reported, citing unnamed diplomats. Annan urged the council to demand that Assad order his troops back to their barracks, where they were supposed to have withdrawn to on Tuesday, AP reported.

"The Annan plan is not a menu of options. It is a set of obligations," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The burden of fully and visibly meeting all of these obligations continues to rest with the regime. They cannot pick and choose."

In a news conference before the Security Council meeting,U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonsaid the "situation looks calmer."

"The world is watching, however, with skeptical eyes, since many promises previously made by the government of Syria had not been kept," he said. "The onus is on the government of Syria to prove that their words will be matched by their deeds at this time."

Activists said scattered attacks across the country continued Thursday and videos purportedly shot inside Syria showed renewed shelling in Homs and tanks, troops and snipers still positioned in cities and towns.

In Aleppo, video showed men and women who had been attending a funeral procession-turned-protest fleeing as heavy gunfire was heard.

State-run media reported that one army officer was killed and 24 others wounded when a roadside bomb went off in Aleppo. It blamed terrorists for the attack.

Antigovernment protests continued across the country, some in cities that have been heavily damaaged. And though much of the country remained calm, there were no reports of troop or tank withdrawals. Several activists said deep trenches were being dug on the outskirts of their areas for tanks to be hidden, possibly in preparation for international monitors.

In the city of Idlib, security force officers — still dispersed at checkpoints and in machine-gun mounted pickup trucks — were still reportedly firing their weapons Thursday morning.

"The checkpoints are still here, it is all here," said a woman who lives in the hard-hit Shimali neighborhood.

Even as Annan was praising the cease-fire as an opportunity to move to a political dialogue, it seemed unlikely that would prove acceptable to some in the opposition.

When the uprising began a year ago, government opponents envisioned a political process, said an activist in the Aleppo province town of Anadan who gave his name as Abu Ghaith. But now that an estimated 10,000 people have been killed, that isn't possible, he said.

In Anadan, which was under rebel control for about two months before soldiers stormed in weeks ago, burning more than 200 homes, protesters Thursday called for the fall of the government, Abu Ghaith said. About 50 residents, most of those still left in the town, attended, he said.

The real test of the cease-fire might come after Friday prayers, when large antigovernment protests are planned.

"I'm surprised that the international community and Kofi Annan are still encouraging dialogue," Abu Ghaith said. "The whole regime has to be prosecuted. Our demands are bigger than just a withdrawal, our demands are the fall of the regime and the execution of the president."

Sandels is a special correspondent.

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