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Syria’s Assad Demands Rebels Cease ‘Terrorist Acts’

March 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: For the first time in decades, Arab leaders have gathered in Baghdad, but the main issue was Syria.

Margaret Warner has that story.

MARGARET WARNER: One year after the Syrian uprising began, violence continues to rage. This amateur video today in Homs showed four men digging through rubble amid heavy gunfire and explosions.

Elsewhere, rebels ambushed an army truck, killing two soldiers north of Hama. And in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, gunmen killed two army colonels in a downtown traffic circle.

Earlier this week, the northern town of Saraqeb fell to the military, leaving destroyed buildings and vehicles, the latest in a series of rebel defeats.

GlobalPost reporter James Foley witnessed the fighting there on Saturday. He spoke today by phone from Turkey.

JAMES FOLEY, GlobalPost: The city was attacked strongly on the first day. The attack basically pushed the Free Syrian Army out of the city. They came back in early morning, but Syrian army tanks were much more and had a much stronger presence around the city.

So, again, the Free Syrian Army escaped, and by the third day almost everyone was out of the city and we had heard reports that the army was going house to house checking to see who was on their wanted list.

MARGARET WARNER: On Tuesday, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan announced that Syrian President Bashar Assad had accepted a six-point peace plan calling for a cease-fire and troop withdrawal from the cities.

Today, Assad told Syrian state television, “Syria will spare no effort to make Annan’s mission a success,” but said the rebels must cease their “terrorist acts.”

His message came as leaders of the Arab League met in Baghdad for the group’s annual summit. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for Assad to translate his commitments into action. And the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, said Damascus must immediately implement the Annan plan.

NABIL ELARABY, Arab League secretary-general: Syria now has the responsibility. You can say now the ball is in Syria’s court. They have to react positively.

MARGARET WARNER: Syria’s chair was empty, the Assad regime, pointedly, not invited. Yet only 10 of the 22 League member states attended. Many Sunni countries, like Egypt and most Gulf states, stayed away.

The summit also highlighted continuing unrest inside Iraq. Three explosions went off in central Baghdad just outside the Green Zone, where the gathering was being held.