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Syria seeks guarantees over pullout

Syria's Foreign Ministry has said the government will not withdraw its troops from cities without written guarantees from armed groups that they will also lay down their weapons.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said earlier statements that Damascus will pull its troops from cities and their suburbs by Tuesday "is a wrong explanation".

Mr Makdessi said that international envoy Kofi Annan had not delivered to the Syrian government "written guarantees" from "armed terrorist groups" that they too will stop the violence.

Mr Annan's office said last week that Syrian president Bashar Assad had accepted a ceasefire agreement calling for government forces to withdraw from towns and villages by Tuesday.

Mr Makdessi said that Syria will not allow a repeat of what had happened during the Arab League's observer mission in Syria in January, when the regime pulled back its armed forces from cities and their surroundings, only to see rebels flood the areas vacated by government troops.

The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army refused the regime's demand for a written guarantee to end fighting.

Col Riad al-Asaad said his group does not recognise President Bashar Assad's regime and for that reason they will not give guarantees.

Al-Asaad said that if the regime abides by UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan to end the violence, his group will cease fire.

He said the government should withdraw its forces to bases and remove checkpoints from streets.

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