* U.S. says burden on Syrian government to fulfill peace
* Annan due to brief U.N. Security Council on Thursday
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, April 11 The United States
dismissed Syria's new pledge to halt all fighting by dawn on
Thursday, saying it holds "little if any credibility" and that
caveats placed by President Bashar al-Assad's government on the
ceasefire are worrying.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the
commitment - made by Syria in a letter to U.N. and Arab League
envoy Kofi Annan - could not be construed as complying with the
former U.N. secretary-general's peace plan.
"The burden remains squarely on the Syrian regime and not
the opposition in the first instance to meet its obligations in
full and visibly under the Annan plan," Rice told reporters.
"The caveats in the letter are worrying and yet again cast
into doubt the credibility of any such commitments but nothing
casts more doubt on the credibility of the commitments than the
fact that commitments have been made and made and made and
broken and broken and broken," she said.
In the letter to Annan on Wednesday, Syria said it reserves
the right to respond to any attack by "armed terrorist groups."
Damascus had agreed to a U.N. Security Council-backed
deadline of Tuesday to withdraw troops Syrian towns and stop
using heavy weapons. That missed deadline was supposed to be
followed by a full ceasefire by the Syrian army and opposition
forces on Thursday morning, but fierce fighting has continued.
"Fighting is still raging as we speak, reflecting what has
been an intensification of the violence that the Syrian
government has pursued since April 1 when it committed to cease
all hostile actions by yesterday," Rice said.
"Its commitments, therefore, have little if any credibility
given that track record."
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been
killed by Syrian forces since March 2011. Damascus says
opposition rebels have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and
Annan is due to brief the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.
Any action by the council would need the support of Russia
and China, which have blocked previous Security Council draft
resolutions on Syria, citing concerns about a Libya-style
intervention that would breach Syrian sovereignty.
Annan's judgment on whether Syria had complied with his plan
would be key in determining the council's next move, said a
diplomat on the council, who declined to be identified.
"But it would be totally inadequate if they (the Syrian
government) don't withdraw from population centers but keep
troops and heavy artillery in place, ready to pound the
population at whatever they unilaterally judge to be a
provocation," said the diplomat.