Last Updated: Sat Mar 31, 2012 11:48 am (KSA) 08:48 am (GMT)

Syria says bid to topple regime failed, army to withdraw from cities ‘once secure’

The United Nations says the unrest that has swept Syria since anti-regime protests first erupted in March last year have cost more than 9,000 lives. (Reuters)
The United Nations says the unrest that has swept Syria since anti-regime protests first erupted in March last year have cost more than 9,000 lives. (Reuters)

The bid to overthrow Syria’s government is over, and the battle now is to secure stability, foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said in a report by state media on Saturday.

“The battle to topple the state is over, and the battle to solidify stability... and move on towards a renewed Syria has begun,” Makdisi was cited as saying by the official SANA news agency.

Makdisi said that the focus of President Bashar al-Assad’s government was also to “rally visions behind the reform process” and “prevent those who seek to sabotage reform.”

The declaration was made in an interview originally carried on Syrian television.

SANA said that Makdisi made the appearance on television in a bid to explain to Syrians why the government accepted a peace plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Annan on Friday urged Assad to immediately implement a ceasefire after the embattled president said he had accepted the U.N.-Arab League envoy’s peace plan.

Makdisi also said he Syrian army will withdraw from urban areas “once peace and security prevail.”

“The presence of the Syrian Arab army in Syrian cities is for defensive purposes (so) as to protect the civilians,” Makdisi said.

“Once peace and security prevail, the army is to pull out,” he added.

The spokesman said the withdrawal would take place without prior agreements, indicating that Damascus rejected the idea of a negotiated ceasefire as demanded by the international community.

Syrian opposition factions meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday called on Assad to immediately withdraw tanks from the streets to prove he is serious about accepting the proposal by Annan aimed at ending the crisis.

The Syrian army, deployed heavily across the country, is far superior in terms of numbers and firepower than the rebel fighters, and has bombarded pockets of resistance in cities such as Homs and Idlib, with devastating consequences.

In other news, Al Arabiya obtained a copy of a letter by Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations General Assembly, Bashar al-Jaafari, addressed to the President of the U.N. Security Council.

In the letter Jaafari, writes that a total of 6143 people have died since the Syrian uprising began a year ago. Among those are over 2,000 members of the Syrian armed forces.

The United Nations says the unrest that has swept Syria since anti-regime protests first erupted in March last year have cost more than 9,000 lives, most of them civilians.

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