Annan says Syrian peace plan still alive
Foreign affairs editor Peter Cave, wires
Peace envoy Kofi Annan says his plan to end the fighting in Syria is still alive despite Damascus all but ignoring Tuesday's deadline to withdraw troops from rebel towns.
Syrian forces continued to pound protest hubs on Tuesday, leaving more than 50 people dead, causing the US, a number of European nations and the Syrian opposition to believe Mr Annan's six-point peace plan has failed.
But Mr Annan is not giving up hope.
Speaking in Turkey where he was visiting a refugee camp, Mr Annan urged all sides to stick to the plan because there was nothing else.
He said there was still time between now and Thursday - when a full ceasefire is supposed to come into effect - to stop the violence.
Meanwhile, Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, has held his first meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in New York.
Senator Carr says he reiterated Australia's continued support for the UN's measures against Syria.
He also told Mr Ban that Australia will implement further sanctions against the Syrian regime if President Assad refuses to change course.
Push for peace
Mr Annan has appealed to the Security Council to use its leverage to prevent the collapse of his efforts to end Syria's year-long conflict.
"Every effort must be made to achieve a cessation of violence in all its forms on 12 April at 6:00am [1:00pm AEST]" he told the council in a letter.
"There is no more time to lose. We must all push for an end to the bloodshed before Syria plunges into the abyss.
"It is essential that the next 48 hours bring visible signs of immediate and indisputable change in the military posture of the government forces throughout the country."
Mr Annan said Syria had failed to send the "signal of peace" required by the plan, agreed to by President Bashar al Assad.
He said Syrian government forces have withdrawn from some cities, but now have new targets. He said a "fundamental change of course" by Mr Assad was needed to achieve a ceasefire.
"I am gravely concerned at the course of events," Mr Annan said in his letter.
"The days before 10 April should have been an opportunity for the government of Syria to send a powerful political signal of peace, with action on all aspects of the six-point (peace) plan."
He added the opposition should also cease fighting in order to "give no excuse for the government to renege on its commitments".
'Moment of truth'
US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, president of the council this month, said all council members voiced "deep concern" at Damascus's level of commitment to its truce pledges.
She was speaking to reporters after Mr Annan's deputy, Jean-Marie Guehenno, briefed the council via video link from Geneva.
Ms Rice added the council may soon face a "moment of truth" when it will have to decide whether to increase pressure on Mr Assad.
Her remarks appeared to be aimed primarily at Russia and China, which have twice vetoed Western- and Arab-backed resolutions condemning Mr Assad's 13-month assault on pro-democracy protesters but have recently supported several council statements backing Mr Annan's six-point peace plan.
"The US view is that it is outrageous but by no means unexpected or surprising that the (Syrian) government has yet again made commitments and broken them," Ms Rice said.
A total of 52 people, including 28 civilians, were killed on Tuesday in violence across Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Among them were 19 members of the regime's security forces and five rebels. That brings the toll since the weekend to at least 337 dead.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed since anti-regime protests broke out in March 2011. Monitors put the number at more than 10,000.
Free Syrian Army spokesman Colonel Kassem Saadeddine warned rebel forces would resume attacking regular forces if they do not withdraw.
"If (the regime) does not stop shelling and not withdraw tanks, we will intensify our military operations and launch attacks," he said.
But Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem insisted Damascus had begun implementing the peace plan.
"We have already withdrawn military units from different Syrian provinces," he told a Moscow news conference after talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.