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Syrian troops start pullout

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 16:58

Beirut: Syrian troops have begun pulling out
from some calm cities and heading back to their bases a week
ahead of a deadline to implement an international cease-fire
plan, a government official said.

The official`s claim could not immediately be verified
and activists near the capital Damascus denied troops were
leaving their area. They said the day regime forces withdraw
from streets; Syria will witness massive protests that will
overthrow the government.

"Forces began withdrawing to outside calm cities and are
returning to their bases, while in tense areas, they are
pulling out to the outskirts," the government official told
AP in Damascus without saying when the withdrawal began.

President Bashar Assad agreed just days ago to an April
10 deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan`s
truce plan. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns
and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are to
immediately follow by ceasing violence.

Khaled al-Omar, an activist in the Damascus suburb of
Saqba, denied that any withdrawal was under way in his area.
"This is impossible. I can see a checkpoint from my window,"
he said via Skype, adding the regime forces were still in the
main square.

Earlier in the day, opposition activists charged that the
regime was racing to crush opponents ahead of the cease-fire
deadline by carrying out intense raids, arrests and shelling
on Tuesday.

Opposition activists have blasted Annan`s plan as too
little, too late and are particularly angry that it does not
call for Assad to leave power the central demand of the
uprising. They suspect Assad will manipulate the plan and use
it to stall for time while his forces continue to crack down.

"He thinks he can win more time to take control of all
Syrian cities," activist Adel al-Omari said by phone from the
southern town of Dael, where regime forces have been torching
activists` homes since they raided on Monday.

"This won`t happen, because as soon as he withdraws his
tanks from the cities, the people will come out and push to
topple the regime."


First Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 16:58

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