A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman has said that President Bashar al-Assad's government will not withdraw the military from cities and towns embroiled in violent clashes with the rebels.
Reuters reported earlier today that Syria is claiming the year-long revolt to topple President Bashar al-Assad is now over, but it will keep its forces in cities to maintain security until it is safe enough for civilians to withdraw troops. The eventual troop withdrawal announcement comes after a U.N.-backed peace deal.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi announced late Friday on state-run television that the military in some Syrian cities was in a state of self defense and protecting civilians, the Associated Press reported.
The spokesperson's statement followed Syria accepting UN envoy Kofi Annan's six-point proposal to end violence Wednesday which mandates, among others, an immediate ceasefire and troop withdrawal.
Hours before the official went on air, Annan's office had appealed to Syrian regime to stop military activities first as the stronger party and in a gesture of good faith.
The UN directive calls for Syria's commitment to work with Annan in an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.
The proposal also mandates humanitarian aid to be allowed for the wounded civilians and asks the government to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons and provide a list of all places where such people are being held.
Welcoming Assad's decision, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that he should deliver what he had promised by accepting a proposal. Given Assad's history of overpromising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate action, Clinton told reporters in Washington Wednesday.
We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says. If he is ready to bring this dark chapter in Syria's history to a close, he could prove it by immediately ordering regime forces to stop firing and begin withdrawing from populated areas.
Protests and clashes were reported across Syria Friday, further complicating Annan's peace efforts. Syrian insurgents lamented inaction by the Arab nations while the US and Saudi Arabia are stepping up efforts to provide aid to the opposition.
Thousands of protesters emerged from mosques after the Friday prayers calling for Assad's ouster, expressing resentment over the Arab League decision to continue talks with the Syrian government.
Talks with the butcher? read a banner carried by a child in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, the AP reported.
Annan's spokesperson said Wednesday that though Assad had accepted the basic proposal, it was unlikely that he would step down from the office.
According to the UN estimate, more than 9,000 people were killed and about 230,000 were forced to flee the country ever since the violent revolution erupted in March last year.