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Activists: Syrian Government Agrees to Truce With Rebel-Held Town


Anti-Syrian regime protesters chant slogans and flash the victory sign as they march during a demonstration at the mountain resort town near the Lebanese border, Zabadani, Syria, January 17, 2012.

Anti-Syrian regime protesters chant slogans and flash the victory sign as they march during a demonstration at the mountain resort town near the Lebanese border, Zabadani, Syria, January 17, 2012.

Syrian opposition activists say government forces have agreed to a cease-fire with rebels holding a mountainous town near Damascus and the Lebanese border.

Activists in Zabadani say rebels of the Free Syrian Army and representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to the truce late Tuesday after five days of fighting. The deal calls for pro-Assad forces to withdraw from the town and for rebels to leave the streets. There was no confirmation of the cease-fire from the Syrian government.

Zabadani has been a frequent site of opposition protests since the start of a 10-month-old uprising against Assad's 11-year autocratic rule. Army defectors who have joined the uprising in recent months have engaged in frequent battles with pro-government troops but have not managed to hold territory for a prolonged period.

Qatar's ruling emir recently became the first Arab leader to call for Arab troops to be deployed in Syria to stop Assad's deadly crackdown on the revolt. Syria has rejected the idea. In a report Wednesday, Syrian state-run newspaper Tishrin accused Qatar of providing money and weapons to armed groups in Syria and demanded a stop to such behavior.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday any plans to send foreign troops to Syria will not be approved in the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow holds a veto. Russia is a key military ally of Syria.

Lavrov also said his government continues to sell products to Syria without violating any international laws. He said unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States and European Union "undermine" collective efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis.

EU foreign ministers are due to meet on Monday in Brussels to discuss a new round of asset freezes and travel bans on Syrian individuals and companies. British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that London will lead the way in tightening EU sanctions against the Syrian president, whom he called a "wretched tyrant."

Cameron also said there is "growing evidence" that Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are providing material support to the Assad government.

A ship carrying Russian-made munitions docked in Syria last week. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said Tuesday that Washington has grave concerns about the flow of weapons into Syria and believes an international arms embargo on Damascus is "overdue."

Russian has submitted a revised draft resolution to the Security Council assigning equal blame for the crisis to the Syrian government and the opposition. Western powers want the Council to condemn and sanction only the Syrian government, a position Russia and China have opposed.

The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syria says "terrorists" have killed about 2,000 members of the security forces since the unrest began.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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