US urges Syria to take positive steps towards ceasefire


The United States on Wednesday accused Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad of failing to fulfill a pledge to respect a UN-Arab League peace plan.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland assailed the Syrian leader, telling reporters that “Assad has not taken the necessary steps to implement” the peace plan crafted by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Washington is concerned over “arrests and violence continuing in Syria today,” Nuland said, vowing to “keep the pressure on Assad.”

“We will judge him on his actions, not his promises,” the spokesperson said.

Nuland made her remarks as her boss, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prepared to attend global talks Sunday on Syria in Istanbul, Turkey.

Annan said on Tuesday that Assad’s government had accepted his plan, a move cautiously welcomed by Western nations.

The plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire and media access to all areas affected by the fighting in Syria.

The plan also calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and the release of people detained arbitrarily.

The disparate Syrian opposition is to attend Sunday’s meeting which will also draw top officials from dozens of Arab and Western countries eager to end the violence in Syria.

Ahead of the gathering the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), an umbrella for many groups, unveiled a proposal highlighting human rights and respect for minorities.

But dissent broke out among participants from the start of the meeting in Istanbul, with human rights activist Haitham al-Maleh withdrawing from the talks and accusing the SNC of not respecting others and imposing its will.

The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which groups Arab nationalist parties, Kurds and socialists, shunned the gathering. Also absent were a small group of intellectuals, including the prominent scholar Michel Kilo.

Clinton said before the first Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis last month that the SNC will demonstrate there is “an alternative” to the Assad regime, stopping well short of recognizing them as the sole opposition movement.

Now Lebanon