Russia: Syrian Rebels Can't Beat Assad
Opposition rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would never beat his army even if they were "armed to the teeth", according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
"Everyone has supported Kofi Annan's plan, but decisions at the Friends of Syria group meeting aimed at arming the opposition and at new sanctions undermine peace efforts," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday during a visit to Azerbaijan, as cited by DPA.
He was referring to an international conference held Sunday in the Turkish city of Istanbul where the Syrian opposition called for arming the anti-government rebels.
Russia, a main arms supplier to Syria, has along with China vetoed two United Nations Security Council resolutions against Damascus.
DPA points out that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the idea of arming the rebels. But Western powers, including the United States, have shied away from the idea for fear of triggering a full-blown civil war in Syria.
At least 33 people were killed Wednesday in violence in several parts of Syria, said opposition activists, who denied reports that troops had started withdrawing from some cities in accordance with an international peace plan.
"On the ground there is no indication that any withdrawal had taken place in any area," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told DPA.
The bulk of deaths on Wednesday occurred in the central province of Homs where several areas were the target of governmental shelling attacks, said activists.
The violence persisted despite news that the Syrian government has accepted an April 10 ceasefire deadline to implement a peace plan brokered by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The plan requires government forces to withdraw from civilian areas. Rebel fighters are also required to immediately observe the truce.
Annan's spokesman, Ahmed Fawzy, announced that an advance UN team is due to arrive in Syria on Thursday to discuss the implementation of the plan.
He added Wednesday that the team would work out the details of deploying international monitors across restive areas to supervise the planned ceasefire.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011, according to the UN.
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