Syrian Demand Derails Scheduled Ceasefire

An agreed cease-fire to end months of bloodshed in Syria, was set to take effect Tuesday. But last-minute demands by the Syrian government have effectively derailed a U.N.-brokered peace plan.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The shooting was supposed to stop in Syria tomorrow. Now we can't be sure. Syria's regime made last-minute demands that appear to have derailed the peace plan, including a ceasefire scheduled for Tuesday.

The Syrian government is under increasing pressure, as we'll hear in a moment. But it remains defiant, as NPR's Grant Clark reports.

GRANT CLARK, BYLINE: In a statement yesterday, the Syrian government said it would not withdraw its troops from towns and cities by tomorrow without a written guarantee that armed dissidents would stop fighting if they do. A ceasefire agreement, brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan last week, has the military retreating by tomorrow, with a truce starting on Thursday. The regime also wants Annan to guarantee that three of its most prominent critics in the region - Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - would not fund the rebels.

The envoy did not directly respond to the demand, and has not said what would happen if the deadline was not met. The country's largest armed rebel group, the Free Syria Army, yesterday restated its commitment to lay down arms if the military withdraws, but says it would not give any written guarantees to a regime it did not recognize.

Grant Clark, NPR News, Beirut.

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