Syrian government claims 'victory,' but continues to shell cities


A Lebanese protester waves a pre-Baath Syrian flag during a demonstration against the Syrian regime in Beirut's Sunni neighbourhood of Tariq al-Jadideh on March 30, 2012. International envoy Kofi Annan urged Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to immediately implement a ceasefire, as fighting raged even after the embattled leader said he had accepted the peace plan.


Joseph Eid

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria's government on Saturday declared victory over "the battle to topple the state," but continued shelling cities across the country, Reuters reported.

The Associated Press referred to a high level government official who said the government had no plans to withdraw troops from civilian areas "before life returns to normal." The office of joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, who proposed a six-point peace plan that demanded a ceasefire, called on the Syrian government — which it said was the "stronger party" — to lay down its arms first.

Reuters reported that Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdissi said on Syrian state television yesterday that "the battle to topple the state is over," and that the government now seeks to "ensure stability and create a perspective for reform and development in Syria while preventing others from sabotaging the path of reform."

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The United States and its Gulf Arab allies have said joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan should set a timeline if the peace plan is not followed. Saudi Arabia, which is a foe of the Assad regime and its ally Iran, again called for arming Syrian rebels, the news wire wrote.

The AP said that the bickering suggests implementing the plan "will be a long and complicated process."

Despite government claims of victory, more than two dozen people across the country were killed by government forces on Saturday, according to the AP.

In Homs, which saw a short respite from shelling during the visit of president Assad earlier this week, "Mortars are falling every minute and the sounds of explosions are shaking the (Khalidiya) neighborhood," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters.

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In an editorial, the Washington Post called Bashar al-Assad's spurning of the UN-Arab League peace plan was "completely predictable." The inaction, the Post wrote, has "more than proved what we, among many others, pointed out at the time: that the Annan plan would merely provide cover for Mr. Assad to go on killing his own people."