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Syria rejects Annan peace proposal

Syria has rejected international envoy Kofi Annan's call for the regime to halt violence, just days after the government agreed to a cease-fire plan.

It was the government's first response to an appeal by Mr Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy, to stop military operations first as "the stronger party" in a "gesture of good faith" to the lightly armed opposition.

Mr Annan brokered the agreement aimed at stopping the bloodshed and Syrian leader Bashar Assad agreed to it on Monday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there.

"The battle to bring down the state in Syria has already ended and the battle of reinforcing stability has started," Mr Makdessi said, in an apparent reference to a string of recent regime offensives that drove rebels from key strongholds.

Activists reported fresh violence on Saturday that killed more than two dozen people. The UN estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising to oust Assad began a year ago.

The foreign ministry statement raised serious doubts about whether Mr Annan's plan to end the conflict will get off the ground.

The six-point proposal requires the government to immediately pull troops and heavy weapons out of cities and towns, and abide by a two-hour halt in fighting every day to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations.

The government stance was reminiscent of a failed mediation attempt by the Arab League around the start of the new year. Assad also agreed to that plan to pull tanks and artillery out of cities and allow in foreign monitors in to assess compliance. But the mission ended in failure and Assad ultimately did not comply with the terms of the agreement he had signed.

Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, said it was clear Assad's acceptance of Mr Annan's peace plan was another "lie and a manoeuvre" to gain time.

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