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Syria: We won't back down first

Damascus will not pull troops from cities and towns engulfed in the country's unrest before life returns to normal in these areas, a Syrian official has said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi told state TV the military is in these cities "in a state of self defence and protecting civilians".

He spoke just hours after the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's office appealed to Syria's government to stop military activities first as "the stronger party" and in a "gesture of good faith".

Syria's uprising began a year ago with peaceful protests against president Bashar Assad's regime. In the face of a fierce crackdown, it has become increasingly militarised.

The UN estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

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