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Syria Peace Plan in Jeopardy as Govt. Raises New Demands

Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi speaks during a press conference in Damascus (file photo).
Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi speaks during a press conference in Damascus (file photo).

A peace deal to stop bloodshed in Syria brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan appeared in jeopardy Sunday, after President Bashar al-Assad's government raised new, last-minute demands that the country's main rebel group quickly rejected.

Damascus said it wanted iron-clad "written guarantees" that insurgents would stop fighting before it withdraws troops from cities.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman (Jihad Makdessi) said Syria would not allow a repeat of what happened during the Arab League's observer mission in January, when he said the government pulled its forces back only to see rebels rearm and take control of "entire neighborhoods."

However, the commander for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, said Sunday that while his group is ready to abide by the truce set for April 10, it will not give guarantees to the Syrian government.

The foreign ministry's request came as an escalation of violence Sunday reportedly claimed at least 45 lives across Syria.  The country's main opposition group said that nearly 130 people, mostly civilians, were killed Saturday.  Annan called a surge in violence and atrocities in several towns and villages "unacceptable."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sharply criticized the Assad government for its continued assault on civilians and said the cease-fire deadline "is not an excuse for continued killing."

U.N. officials say more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began 13 months ago.

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

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