Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Syria Agrees to Pullback of Troops

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Syria Agrees to Pullback of Troops

Article excerpt

The government has promised that its armed forces will stop shooting and withdraw from population centers by April 10, the special emissary trying to end the uprising told the U.N. Security Council.

The Syrian government has agreed to withdraw its security forces from in and around major population centers by April 10, ostensibly paving the way for a general cease-fire two days later, Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, has told the Security Council.

In a further sign of outside efforts to slow the violence, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said its president would arrive in Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Tuesday to renew his appeal for a daily two-hour suspension of hostilities to facilitate the evacuation of the wounded and the delivery of aid. It was unclear how Syrian officials would respond to the plea from the Red Cross chief, Jakob Kellenberger.

At the United Nations, many Security Council members greeted the information Monday from Mr. Annan with a certain skepticism, given Syria's record of disregarding peace plans it had accepted.

Even Mr. Annan asked the Council to publicly endorse the April 10 deadline as a means of pressuring Syria to respect it, said diplomats who were in a closed-door briefing conducted from abroad by satellite. Mr. Annan also asked that the Council commission contingency plans to deploy U.N. observers should the cease-fire become a reality, the diplomats and U.N. officials said.

Council members moved to make an endorsement, but the idea of sending a U.N. observer mission was expected to be more problematic. Both Russia and China have repeatedly wielded their Council veto power to reject anything that they suspect might result in outside interference.

Still, the deadline was the first concrete if small step toward a cease-fire in an uprising that has grown increasingly violent since it erupted in March 2011, leaving more than 9,000 people dead and thousands more wounded, by the United Nations' count. …

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