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UN says Syria claims troop withdrawal has begun in 3 key areas
GENEVA (AP) ' The spokesman for U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan says Syria is claiming that it has already begun troop withdrawals in some areas.
Ahmad Fawzi says officials with President Bashar Assad's government "have told us they have begun withdrawing troops from certain areas" of Syria, including Daraa, Idlib and Zabadani.
Fawzi told reporters Thursday in Geneva that a Syrian ceasefire is expected to begin no later than 48 hours after April 10.
He says "the clock starts on the 10th for both sides to cease all forms of violence."
His comments come as activists said Syrian troops were attacking a suburb of the capital in what they described as one of the most violent campaigns since the year-old uprising began.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) ' Russia could support a U.N. Security Council motion on Syria if it doesn't contain ultimatums to Bashar Assad's government, the Russian foreign minister said Thursday.
Sergey Lavrov said on a trip to Kyrgyzstan that Moscow may vote in favor of a Security Council document backing U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan. Lavrov didn't specify whether he was referring to a Council resolution or a statement, but warned that the document shouldn't contain any ultimatums or threats.
"When we consider a document at the Security Council, we shall proceed from the principle of not doing any harm," he said. "It would be good if we are able to reach a consensus aimed at helping Kofi Annan's mission and not use ultimatums that would escalate tensions."
Russia and China have twice used their veto power at the Council to block U.N. resolutions condemning Assad's government over its yearlong crackdown on an uprising in which more than 9,000 people have been killed. But Moscow has strongly supported Annan's plan and urged Assad to take the first step to end bloodshed.
"Russia believes that any steps regarding the Syrian problem should be aimed exclusively at supporting Annan's mission," Lavrov said. "It's very important not to undermine this process with ultimatums or threats. Regrettably, some are willing to do that, and it refers in particular to the 'Friends of the Syrian People' meeting."
Lavrov that some participants of Sunday's meeting in Istanbul made statements that discourage the opposition from observing its obligations under Annan's plan.
Assad agreed this week to implement the cease-fire brokered by Annan from April 10. The truce is the keystone of a six-point plan put forward by Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy. It requires government forces to withdraw from towns and cities, followed by a withdrawal by rebel fighters. Then all sides are supposed to hold talks on a political solution.
"While Kofi Annan has insisted on the demilitarization of cities, statements coming from Istanbul have sent a different signal to the opposition," Lavrov said Thursday
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two Sunni-ruled monarchies in the Gulf, have backed the idea of arming the opposition against Assad's Shiite-ruled government, but the West remains opposed. Western nations moved instead to create a fund for the rebels at the meeting in Istanbul.
Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.