UN Arab league envoy Kofi Annan has given the Syrian government and rebel forces until 6 a.m. next Thursday to end violence in the year-long conflict, it emerged Thursday.

The announcement came as President Bashar al-Assad's forces continued their attacks on rebels in a town near the capital Damascus on Thursday, killing 40 people, according to reports.

Ahead of next week's deadline a UN team, led by a deputy of peace envoy Kofi Annan, arrived in the country Thursday to discuss implementing the six-point ceasefire plan.

Yes, they have told us that they have begun withdrawing troops from certain areas, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told a news briefing in Geneva, according to Reuters.

 They have specified three cities - Deraa, Idlib and Zabadani.

The UN said Thursday it was still trying to confirm the claims.

I urge the government and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level, Annan told the U.N. General Assembly.

Elsewhere, activists from the Revolutionary Council of the Damascus Countryside claimed there was heavy fighting between government forces and rebels in the town of Douma, just 8 miles from Damascus, Reuters reported.

Fawzi said that UN member nations were being asked to provide peacekeeping forces due to be deployed after the April 10 ceasefire deadline.

He added that reports of an eventual force of around 200 to 250 were not very far off, with expectations of a gradual deployment.

An advance UN team was expected to arrive in Damascus on Thursday to prepare the ground for a full deployment.

What we expect on the 10th of April is that the Syrian government will have completed its withdrawal from populated centers, the withdrawal of military units from populated centers, that it would have stopped moving any military units into cities and that we begin a 48-hour period during which there will be a complete cessation of all forms of violence by all parties.

 That includes of course the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government, Fawzi said.

So the clock starts ticking on the 10th for both sides to cease all forms of violence, he added.

The ceasefire is timed to coincide with a meeting between Annan and Iranian officials in Tehran, scheduled for April 11.