Annan: Syria must end conflict in 1 week

In this April 4, 2012 photo, Free Syrian Army fighters guard a night protest in a neighborhood in Damascus, Syria.
AP Photo

(CBS/AP) UNITED NATIONS - International envoy Kofi Annan reported "alarming levels" of daily casualties in Syria as a U.N. team arrived in Damascus to negotiate the possible deployment of U.N. monitors for any cease-fire between Syrian troops and rebel forces.

Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, said Thursday that Syria has informed him of partial withdrawals from three locations — Idlib, Zabadani and Daraa — "but it is clear that more far-reaching action is urgently required."

His comments came as activists reported that Syrian troops attacked the Damascus suburb of Douma, an assault they said shows that Syrian President Bashar Assad is intensifying violence in the days before the April 10 deadline to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns. Assad's crackdown on the yearlong uprising has left at least 9,000 people dead, according to the U.N.

In his speech, Annan put a firm date and time at which hostilities must end in Syria: 6 a.m. on April 12. The Syrian government has reportedly already agreed to stop the fighting two days before that.

"I urge the government and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level," Annan told the U.N. General Assembly.

CBS News correspondent Pamela Falk reports Annan tried to reassure the General Assembly that his peace plan was not functioning as a pretext for the Assad regime in Syria to buy time or to defeat the opposition. Many in the U.N. have come to see the Syrian conflict as an internationalized battle - a proxy war - between Russia and Iran on one side and the U.S. and the Gulf states on the other.

The U.N. Security Council did issue an official statement calling on Syria "to urgently and visibly" fulfill its pledge to halt the use of troops and heavy weapons in cities and towns by the April 10 deadline.

The presidential statement read at a formal council meeting Thursday morning also calls on all parties, including the opposition, "to cease armed violence in all its forms" within 48 hours of the Syria pullout being fully implemented, according to diplomats.

The statement raised the possibility of "further steps" if Syria doesn't implement the six-point peace plan outlined by Annan.

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France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he was not optimistic about a peace plan for Syria and is ready to push for stronger U.N. action if the deadline is not met. Assad "is deceiving us" when he promises to abide by the peace plan, Juppe said.

"If we manage to get 200 observers (and the other measures in the peace plan) in place, things will change dramatically," he told reporters in Paris. "If we don't manage to get this by April 12, we have to go back to the U.N. Security Council."

Syria has told U.N. officials that it is withdrawing troops from the southern province of Daraa, the northwestern province of Idlib and mountain resort town of Zabadani, north of Damascus, Fawzi said.

Meanwhile, a team led by a Norwegian major general arrived in Damascus on Thursday to negotiate the possible deployment of a U.N. team that would monitor the cease-fire agreement between Syrian government troops and rebel forces, a spokesman for the U.N. Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said.

Ahmad Fawzi said the U.N. is already asking member nations to contribute about 200 to 250 soldiers who would monitor a cease-fire that should come into effect on April 10.

His comments came as activists said Syrian troops attacked the Damascus suburb of Douma, an assault the opposition says shows President Bashar Assad is intensifying violence in the days before the deadline.