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Syria Cease-Fire Appears On Brink Of Collapse
Saying it is "outraged" by reports of Syrian troops firing into a refugee camp across the border in Turkey, the U.S. State Department this afternoon said it strongly condemns the latest actions by the regime of President Bashar Assad and that things are getting worse in that country — not better, as had been hoped for when the regime agreed to a plan for a cease-fire that is supposed to begin Tuesday.
"Based on what we're seeing today, we are not hopeful" about the prospects for a cease-fire, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland added.
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A cease-fire deal between the Syrian government and the Free Syrian Army appears to be all but dead after the rebels refused to provide a written guarantee to end attacks.
NPR's Grant Clark reports that the Syrian government said it would not withdraw its troops from towns and cities by a Tuesday cease-fire deadline without a written guarantee that armed dissidents would stop fighting if they do.
The last-minute obstacle occurred as the death toll mounted in fighting that has claimed thousands of lives since an uprising began last year.
Violence has increased ahead of Tuesday's deadline, according to the BBC. Activists said that 70 people were killed on Sunday, bringing the weekend toll to at least 180, most of them civilians.
The Associated Press reported:
"Syrian forces on Monday fired across the border at a refugee camp in Turkey, killing one and wounding four, activists said. It is the first such attack since Ankara began allowing thousands of refugees to find shelter in the country.
"A Turkish government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said his country — which stands at the forefront of calls for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad — immediately protested the incident and called for fire to be halted.
"U.N. envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled to pay a brief visit to one of the refugee camps in Hatay province, bordering Syria, on Tuesday afternoon before heading to Iran,Turkey's Foreign Ministry said. Annan's office confirmed the trip to Turkey."
The New York Times says "reports from the area" seem confused:
"... some accounts from activists inside Syria saying that a large number of reinforcements for the government troops, backed by tanks and helicopters, had arrived close to Turkish territory. A Turkish government official said the three people who were wounded — two Syrians and a Turkish translator — were hit when they tried and failed to rescue two unidentified civilians who were shot and killed near the border."
NPR's Grant says the Syrian regime wants Annan to guarantee that Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will cease funding for the rebels. The envoy did not directly respond to the demands and has not said what would happen if the Tuesday deadline is not met.
The United Nations has estimated more than 9,000 people have been killed in 13 months of anti-Assad rebellion.