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Syrian regime accepts UN ceasefire plan

However, a senior UN official has accused Bashar al-Assad’s forces of deliberately torturing and jailing hundreds of children.

Syrian army soldiers hold pictures of Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Damascus
Syrian army soldiers hold pictures of Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Damascus
Image: Bassem Tellawi/AP/Press Association Images

THE SYRIAN REGIME has accepted a plan for a ceasefire drawn up by UN envoy Kofi Annan.

However, the diplomatic breakthrough was swiftly overshadowed by fierce clashes between government soldiers and rebels that sent bullets flying into Lebanon.

Opposition members accuse President Bashar Assad of agreeing to the plan to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to kill off bastions of dissent.

The UN said the death toll has grown to more than 9,000, a sobering assessment of a devastating year-old crackdown on the uprising that shows no sign of ending.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has accused security forces of deliberately targeting children. She told the BBC that a prosecution should be brought through the International Criminal Court, adding:

They’ve gone for the children – for whatever purposes – in large numbers. Hundreds detained and tortured… it’s just horrendous. Children shot in the knees, held together with adults in really inhumane conditions, denied medical treatment for their injuries.

A report last November found that more than 250 children had been killed by regime forces.

Annan’s announcement that Syria had accepted his peace plan was met with deep skepticism.

“We are not sure if it’s political maneuvering or a sincere act,” said Louay Safi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. “We have no trust in the current regime [...] We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians.”

Complete ceasefire

Annan’s plan calls for an immediate, two-hour halt in fighting every day to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuations. The plan also outlines a complete cease-fire, but that will take more time because Syria must first move troops and equipment out of cities and towns, government forces; the divided opposition must stop fighting; and a UN-supervised monitoring mission must be established.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Assad must now act.

“Given Assad’s history of overpromising and under-delivering, that commitment must now be matched by immediate action,” Clinton told reporters in Washington. “We will judge Assad’s sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not by what he says.”

Annan, who is an envoy for the UN and the Arab League, has traveled to Russia and China to shore up support for his peace plan. In Beijing on Tuesday, Annan said China has offered its “full support” for his mission.

Despite the high-level diplomacy, the situation on the ground remained as bloody as ever.

There were conflicting reports about whether Syrian troops physically crossed the border into Lebanon during heavy fighting near a rural area around the Lebanese village of Qaa.

Two Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press that only bullets whizzed across the frontier. But witnesses in Qaa said they saw dozens of troops enter Lebanon, apparently chasing Syrian rebels.

- Additional reporting by Michael Freeman

More: Syrian security forces ‘using human shields’>

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