U.S. dismisses Syrian demand for written guarantees

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 9, 2012 3:05pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday dismissed Syrian demands for written guarantees that rebels would lay down arms as a stalling tactic and voiced outrage at reports Syria attacked refugees inside Turkey.

Syria was to have started pulling troops out of towns and cities by Tuesday, paving the way for a ceasefire under a peace plan designed to end Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's efforts to crush more than a year of anti-government protests.

Assad over the weekend demanded written guarantees from the rebels that they would stop fighting and lay down arms, making it even more likely that the peace plan devised by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would fail.

"This is just more chaff being thrown up in the air at the last minute to deflect attention from the fact that the regime is not meeting the commitments that they made to Kofi Annan," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

"This is just another way to stall for time," she told reporters, saying the United States saw "no indication" that Syria was preparing to pull back its forces.

Clashes between Syrian and rebel forces along the Syrian border with Turkey wounded at least five people, including two Turkish officials, when stray bullets hit a refugee camp in Turkey, Turkish officials said.

"We strongly condemn any attack by the Syrian regime on refugees in bordering countries and we are absolutely outraged by today's report," Nuland told reporters. "These incidents are just another indication that the Assad regime does not seem at all willing to meet the commitments that it made to Kofi Annan."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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