04/12/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Ceasefire between regime and rebels appears to be holding

Syrian Human Rights Observatory chief reports calm across the country. UN- and Arab League-sponsored ceasefire came into effect at 6 am (local time). In case of violation, Syrian military and the Free Syrian Army threaten to resume hostilities. Clashes were reported yesterday in Homs and other Syrian cities.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Syria has begun to enforce a ceasefire proposed by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The deadline was set at 5 am (local time). "An hour after the ultimatum expired, the situation is calm in all regions," Rami Abdel Rahman, chairman of the London-based Syrian Human Rights Observatory, said. The decision by the Bashar al Assad regime to accept the ceasefire comes a month of pressures from the international community, especially Russia. In the past weeks, Syria historic ally has tried to convince Assad to accept the Annan plan to avoid a Libya-styled military action promoted by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In a letter to Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, said that Syrian forces ceased all military action at 6 am (local time), but that they reserved the right to respond proportionately to any attack carried out by the rebels. Likewise, the latter said they reserve the right to respond to the regime's provocations.

A spokesman for the main rebel force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said the ceasefire was unlikely to take effect because neither side would stop shooting. "If the other side stopped, the Syrian people would march on the president's palace on the same day. This means the regime won't stop," Captain Ayham al-Kurdi said.

The UN-Arab League peace plan is the last chance for peace in Syria. The six-part proposal calls for an end to the violence, gradual implementation of the ceasefire, shipment of humanitarian aid, release of people held without trial, free movement for journalists, and political talks between the government and the opposition. On the ground however, the situation remains shaky, experts say.

Yesterday, a few hours before the ceasefire came into effect, clashes were reported in Homs, Deraa and west of Damascus. Rebel sources said more than 30 people were killed.

After a year of fighting between the Syrian regime and the Free Syrian Army, the number of number stands at 9,000 with tens of thousands of people displaced, this according to UN data.

By contrast, the Assad government claims that only 3,838 people have died, 2,493 civilians and 1,345 members of the military and the security forces.

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