By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday April 10, 2012
Syria clashes blight ceasefire hopes
Fresh clashes have broken out in Syria despite the passing of a UN-backed deadline for a complete withdrawal of government troops and weapons.
Activists reported shelling in Homs and areas of northern Aleppo province, and unrest in the capital, Damascus.
Rights groups said 11 people had been killed on Tuesday.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, in Russia for talks, said Damascus had taken steps to adhere to the plan by withdrawing some troops.
He blamed “armed gangs” for the continuing violence.
Under the peace plan – negotiated by the UN and Arab League’s special envoy on the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan – Syrian troops were to have completed their withdrawal from population centres and stopped the use of heavy weaponry by Tuesday, ahead of a full ceasefire coming into place on Thursday.
Damascus had agreed to the deadline, but on Sunday demanded written guarantees first that its opponents would give up arms, along with a promise from foreign states not to fund them.
Speaking after talks with his Russian counterpart, Mr Muallem said army units had been withdrawn from some areas, a number of detainees released and agreement reached on getting humanitarian aid to those in need. (Source: BBC News)