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Pro-Syrian government demonstrators hold Baath party flags and a picture of President Bashar Assad at a rally at Sabe Bahrat Square in Damascus yesterday. Bassem Tellawi/AP/Press Association Images

Syria: Rebels refuse 'written guarantee' to end fighting

It comes as the UN/Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan decried the continuing violence in the country.

THE COMMANDER OF the rebel Free Syrian Army has refused a regime demand for a ‘written guarantee’ to end fighting.

Hours after the Syrian government demanded “written guarantees” that its opponents will lay down their weapons before it withdraws its troops from cities, commander Riad al-Asaad’s made his comments.

Al-Assad’s remarks have the potential to derail a fragile UN/Arab League-brokered truce that was supposed to start this Tuesday, bringing an end to over a year of violence in which the UN estimates more than 9,000 people have died.

Al-Asaad said that his group does not recognise President Bashar Assad’s regime and that they will not give guarantees, telling the AP that if the regime abides by the UN/Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to end the violence, his group will cease fire.

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

It comes as the latest violence claimed the lives of between 74 and 160 people in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, and in Hama, the Guardian reports. Figures have varied due to the difficulty in verifying reports from a country where journalists are restricted.

Annan condemned what he said was a “a surge in violence and atrocities” and urged the regime to implement the ceasefire plan. He said that the fighting is causing “alarming levels of casualties, refugees and displaced persons”.

Activists say Syrian troops are continuing their assault on restive regions despite a plan that calls for government forces to withdraw from towns and villages by Tuesday and for the regime and rebels to lay down their arms by 6 am Thursday.

Syria’s government appeared to be backtracking today by demanding written guarantees from the rebels to lay down their weapons before withdrawing its own troops.

- with reporting from the Associated Press

Read: Syria steps up offensive in Damascus suburbs