Syrian rebels set Friday deadline to end carnage

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Damascus: In an Internet announcement published Thursday, Syrian rebel commander says his forces may abandon a cease-fire agreement with the Syrian government on Friday if President Bashar al-Assad fails to abide by the truce and other terms of a U.N.-backed peace plan.

Free Syrian Army Colonel Qassim Saadeddine has given Mr. Assad a deadline of noon Friday local time to start acting on commitments made to international peace envoy Kofi Annan. The rebel commander said his forces would no longer be bound by the Annan peace plan if the Syrian president fails to comply.

The ultimatum by the Free Syrian Army was followed by a demand from UN chief Ban Ki-moon that the regime implement Annan's six-point plan, which includes a ceasefire that should have taken effect on April 12 but has been violated daily.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice warned on Wednesday that prospects for a political solution -- part of the Annan plan -- are now "almost non-existent" and that the Security Council must discuss new action against Damascus.

The FSA singled out last weekend's massacre near the central town of Houla in which 108 people died, including 49 children and 34 women.

Some were killed by artillery and tank fire but most were summarily executed, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The U.N. chief also warned that more massacres such as the Houla incident "could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war ... from which the country would never recover."

The FSA also demanded a commitment by Assad's regime not to attack the UN observer mission overseeing the truce, "and the opening of serious negotiations through the United Nations to deliver power to the people."

Notably, more than 13,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, since an anti-regime revolt erupted against Assad's regime in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
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