* Annan sets 6 a.m. April 12 deadline for conflict's end
* Security Council endorses Annan's deadlines for Syria
* Russia, China support U.N. council statement
* Syria hints at possible loophole in Annan plan
By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, April 5 Syria faced pressure
from all sides at the United Nations on Thursday as U.N.-Arab
League envoy Kofi Annan set a precise deadline for an end to the
conflict with clear backing from Russia, China and the rest of
the U.N. Security Council.
Speaking by video link from Geneva, Annan told the
193-nation U.N. General Assembly he was urging "the government
and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions so
that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter
and soldier at the local level" at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) on April
"We must silence the tanks, helicopters, mortars, guns and
stop all other forms of violence too - sexual abuse, torture,
executions, abductions, destruction of homes, forced
displacement and other abuses, including on children," he said.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, however, hinted at a
possible loophole in Annan's peace plan, which does not refer to
the withdrawal of police forces. He told reporters the police
were not covered by the April 10 deadline because "the
deployment of the police is to protect the civilians."
Opposition activists say the army and police have been
responsible for killing civilians in the government's yearlong
attempt to stamp out pro-democracy demonstrations.
The former U.N. chief spoke after the 15-nation Security
Council unanimously adopted a "presidential statement" endorsing
next week's deadline and warning Damascus of "further steps" if
it did not meet the deadline, which the Syrians have accepted.
Annan's precise deadline and the latest council statement on
the conflict backed by China and Russia, Syria's staunch ally
and arms supplier, were the most recent examples of how U.N.
pressure on Damascus to halt its yearlong assault is steadily
Russia and China twice vetoed resolutions condemning Syria,
but in a diplomatic setback for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
have recently supported several statements urging Damascus to
accept Annan's plan and allow humanitarian aid workers access.
It said the council "calls upon the Syrian government to
implement urgently and visibly its commitments ... to a) cease
troop movements toward population centers, b) cease all use of
heavy weapons in such centers, and c) begin pullback of military
concentrations in and around population centers."
The statement urges Damascus to "fulfill these in their
entirety by no later than 10 April, 2012."
An earlier draft, obtained by Reuters, said the council
"demands" compliance from Damascus. Western diplomats said the
text was watered down to secure Russian and Chinese approval.
The agreed statement includes a second deadline that affects
the opposition as well: "The Security Council calls upon all
parties, including the opposition, to cease armed violence in
all its forms within 48 hours of the implementation in their
entirety by the Syrian government of measures a, b, c."
Annan made clear the second deadline for silencing all guns
in accordance with his six-point peace plan will take effect at
6 a.m. Syrian time on April 12. In addition to a truce, Annan's
plan calls for dialogue between the government and opposition on
a "political transition" for the country.
Ja'afari blasted the president of the General Assembly,
Qatar's U.N. Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, for holding
Thursday's meeting on the Syrian conflict. Ja'afari said he was
using the assembly to push the agenda of Qatar, which supports
arming Syria's rebels.
"The PGA (president of the General Assembly) has misused his
post ... to impose on member states the Qatari and Saudi
agendas," he said, referring to the "so-called Syrian crisis."
"The PGA is a biased person, deceiving all of us, cheating
on his mandate ... serving his national agenda," Ja'afari said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly
that the violence in Syria was getting worse, despite Damascus'
official acceptance of Annan's plan.
The Security Council statement asked Annan to update it on
compliance with the timeline and warned that it "will consider
further steps as appropriate." Russia and China, however, have
made clear they would oppose any attempts to sanction Syria.
The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than
9,000 people in the past year in his attempts to crush
pro-democracy demonstrations across the country. Syria told the
world body last week that 6,044 had died, including 2,566
soldiers and police.
Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about Assad's
intentions, noting he has broken previous promises to halt
military action against civilian protesters.
The council also asks Ban Ki-moon to present proposals for a
U.N. observer mission to monitor compliance with any future
truce. As part of Annan's peace plan, the U.N. peacekeeping
department is planning for a ceasefire monitoring mission that
would have 200 to 250 unarmed observers. It would require a
Security Council resolution.