Syrian govt: ‘We have begun troop withdrawal’

Damascus says it has started pulling troops from cities to meet deadlines set by UN envoy Kofi Annan. But as the Syrian opposition claims bloodshed is continuing, Annan has been forced to defend his ceasefire plan insisting it’s “still on the table.”

“We have already withdrawn some military forces from several Syrian provinces,” declared Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, following a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

He also says some of the government’s forces have pulled out from Homs, as the Russian Foreign Ministry cites him.

The Syrian FM demanded a guarantee from UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan that opposition forces would stand down and that a deployment of international monitors would coincide with the ceasefire.

Lavrov for his part said that he was convinced of the Syrian leadership’s commitment to the UN-brokered peace plan. He also called on Kofi Annan and the global powers to try bring the Syrian opposition to their senses:

The US and other countries which have influence over the Syrian opposition had better stop pointing the finger at China and Russia all the time, but rather use their leverage to convince everyone to stop shooting,” he said.

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