January 18, 2012

Syrian army 'agrees to ceasefire in Zabadani'

Radwan Ziadeh told the BBC troops had shelled the town since Friday, but had agreed to stop hostilities as the Free Syrian Army had strong local support.
He said many members of the Syrian army had defected to the rebels' side.
Zabadani, which is also not far from the Lebanese border, has been the site of frequent anti-government protests.
The offensive on the town was the first launched by the army since an Arab League observer mission arrived in Syria last month.
It is tasked with verifying the implementation of a peace initiative, which has so far not brought an end to a government crackdown on dissent that the UN says has left more than 5,000 people dead since March.

On Tuesday, the government rejected a call from the Gulf state of Qatar for Arab troops to be sent to Syria to end the violence.
The foreign ministry in Damascus said the Syrian people rejected any foreign intervention or attempt to infringe their country's sovereignty.
President Bashar al-Assad has blamed a "foreign conspiracy" for the uprising against his rule, and officials say "armed gangs and terrorists" have killed at least 2,000 security forces personnel.
On Tuesday evening, opposition leaders and activists in Zabadani announced that after two days of negotiations, a ceasefire had been agreed under which the army would withdraw and members of the Free Syrian Army leave the streets from Wednesday morning.
"The Syrian government is under pressure from the Arab League since the next meeting of the Arab League is approaching, and they don't need to put more pressure from the international community on them," Mr Ziadeh told the BBC.
"But at the same time, they are surprised at the strength of the Free Syrian Army, and the support they have among the population, and the Syrian dissidents there," he added.
Mr Ziadeh said defections among the troops besieging Zabadani had also played a part.
Another opposition leader, Kamal al-Labwani, told the Reuters news agency that "preachers were broadcasting the ceasefire agreement from the minarets of Zabadani".
At least one civilian and about 30 government soldiers had been killed since the bombardment began on Friday, Mr Labwani added.
Mr Labwani also said President Assad's brother-in-law, Deputy Defence Minister Assef Shawkat, had been involved in the ceasefire negotiations.
There has so far been no comment from the Syrian authorities.
UN intervention
Mr Ziadeh also told the BBC that the Arab League should ask the United Nations Security Council to intervene to prevent civil war in Syria.
Until now, Russia and China have prevented any action by the body.
But on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the situation in Syria had "reached an unacceptable point".
The leader of the Free Syrian Army also urged the Security Council to intervene on Tuesday.
"The Arab League and their monitors failed in their mission," Col Riyad al-Asaad told the Reuters news agency from Turkey.
"For that reason we call on them to turn the issue over to the UN Security Council and we ask that the international community intervene because they are more capable of protecting Syrians at this stage than our Arab brothers," he added.

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