GWEN IFILL: Now to Syria.
The United Nations estimates today that the death toll has reached 9,000, as the government there continues to uproot opposition forces. Today, President Bashar Assad toured the city of Homs, the scene of some of the worst fighting.
John Ray of Independent Television News reports.
JOHN RAY: The scene was carefully crafted for state television, among the crowd, a weeping man to greet President Assad. This was the longtime rebel stronghold of Baba Amr. Government forces have reduced much of it to ruins. And for many in this city, the president is no liberator; he’s a murderer.
MAN: The people that were there in Baba Amr now are — they are refugees in other area. They are looking at TVs and show — see this criminal, Bashar al-Assad, who is killing innocent people and killing children also.
JOHN RAY: Not far away, opposition groups tell us fierce battles still rage. It’s hard to verify when these images were filmed, but the fighting is intense.
This activist says he’s in central Homs. Then shells begin to fall all around him, shattering the narrow streets. Amid this violence, news of an unlikely diplomatic breakthrough. In China, U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan announced Syria has agreed to his proposals for a cease-fire and talks.
KOFI ANNAN, former U.N. Secretary-General: And I indicated I have received a response from the Syrian government. And we will be making it public today, which is positive. And we hope to work with them to translate it into action.
JOHN RAY: Few believe this deal will stick.
WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: We start with a skeptical eye on this. This is a regime that has been involved in the murdering of many thousands of people, the torture and abuse of many others.
JOHN RAY: Syria’s rebels insist they will not lay down their arms while Assad remains in power. They believe the regime is merely buying time in which to crush their uprising.