Annan Says Syria Agrees to April 10 Deadline
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Syria signaled today that it is ready to stop the shooting next week. That word came from United Nations peace envoy Kofi Annan, and was met with skepticism by U.S. officials.
The former U.N. secretary-general spoke to the Security Council in closed session and reported no progress toward an immediate cease-fire in Syria. Instead, Annan said the Syrian government has agreed to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from towns by April 10. A full cessation of violence would follow 48 hours later.
But the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said the Syrians have broken similar pledges in the past.
SUSAN RICE, United States ambassador to the United Nations: The United States, for one, would look at these commitments and say yet again that the proof is in the actions, not in the words.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, in Syria, it was another bloody day of clashes. Residents of Homs said these pictures showed a renewed bombardment by the army of the President Bashar al-Assad.
This followed another bloody weekend. At least 70 people were killed yesterday, bringing the total number of dead closer to 10,000 in the year since the uprising began. People running away from the violence continue to stream out of Syria. This group crossed into Turkey, where 20,000 Syrians are now seeking refuge.
Yesterday in Istanbul, Turkey, the group named Friends of Syria, including the U.S. and 70 other nations, recognized the Syrian National Council as the legitimate voice of the opposition.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced further sanctions and additional aid to Syrian civilians and refugees.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: But the United States is also going beyond humanitarian aid and providing support to the civilian opposition, including communications equipment that will help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries planned a $100 million fund to pay Syrian opposition fighters and compensate defectors.
But they stopped short of shipping weapons to the outgunned fighters who are battling the Assad regime. It added up to disappointment for some members of the Syrian National Council, who attended the conference.
ABDULAHAD ASTEPHO, Syrian national council: It wasn’t at the level of the expectation of the Syrian people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Indeed, back on the Turkey-Syria border, the offer of aid, but not guns, was met with disappointment in refugee camps.
SEYH SAMIR IBRAHIM, Syria (through translator): This will give Bashar Assad the opportunity to carry out more massacres.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As the fighting continues, the head of the International Red Cross headed to Damascus today on a two-day mission to expand humanitarian operations in Syria.