Syria govt accepts peace plan

But bloodshed persists; clashes spill across border into Lebanon

Syria has accepted a UN-sponsored peace plan, international envoy Kofi Annan said on Tuesday, as troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad raided rebel forces who have taken refuge across the border in Lebanon.

Assad made a rare foray into the heartland of Syria’s year-old uprising, visiting a rebel stronghold in the city of Homs that his forces had overrun after weeks of shelling and gunfire, apparently to make the point that he can now tour the streets of the once bitterly fought-over district.

Syrian state television showed video of Assad, wearing an open-necked shirt with a blue suit, walking casually in the devastated streets of the Baba Amr district and talking to groups of supporters and troops in combat gear.

Baba Amr was an emblem of opposition and rebel army defiance until it was reclaimed by government forces early this month after 26 days of heavy bombardment which opposition activists said was totally indiscriminate.

“Life will return to normal in Baba Amr, better than it was before,” Assad said.

Annan represents the United Nations and the Arab League. Through a spokesman he said Assad had accepted the basic terms of a peace plan which calls for national dialogue but does not hinge on him leaving office.

Annan’s plan calls for withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, humanitarian assistance being allowed in unimpeded, release of prisoners, freedom of movement and access for journalists to go in and out, Annan said.

Western and Arab leaders are due to meet in Istanbul on April 1 to discuss a political transition, and the Arab League and Turkey were pressing various wings of the Syrian opposition to try to unite.

More than 9,000 killed

The United Nations estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's upheaval over the past year, UN Middle East envoy Rovert Serry told the Security Council. Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed terrorists for the violence and say 3,000 soldiers and police have been killed.


Annan’s six-point plan

* A Syrian-led, UN-assisted political process to address legitimate aspirations and concerns of Syrians
* An end to the fighting under UN supervision
* Humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by fighting
* Release of detained persons
* Ensure freedom of movement for journalists
* Freedom of association and right to demonstrate peacefully

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