Syria declares it has defeated revolt


Syria’s regime declared on Saturday it has defeated those seeking to bring it down while reiterating support for a UN-Arab peace plan, as its troops reportedly shelled rebels in the city of Homs.
Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi, cited by the official SANA news agency, also said Syrian troops would only draw back from urban areas once the security situation is stable.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in the crackdown by forces of President Bashar al-Assad on an Arab Spring-inspired uprising that began a year ago with pro-democracy protests. “The battle to topple the state is over, and the battle to solidify stability… and move on towards a renewed Syria has begun,” Makdisi said in an interview originally carried on state television.
The spokesman said the Assad government’s focus was also to “rally visions behind the reform process” and “prevent those who seek to sabotage reform.” Troops would only withdraw from residential zones once they were secure, Makdisi said, adding UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan acknowledged there were “illegitimate armed elements within the opposition”. “The presence of the Syrian Arab army in Syrian cities is for defensive purposes (so) as to protect the civilians,” he said. “Once peace and security prevail, the army is to pull out.” SANA said Makdisi made the appearance on television in a bid to explain to Syrians why the government had this week accepted Annan’s six-point peace plan. Annan appealed for an immediate ceasefire on Friday, as monitors said at least 39 people — all but seven of them civilians — were killed in Syria as security forces sought to crush the revolt.
Shells rained down on the flashpoint central city of Homs on Friday, as thousands of people protested nationwide against what they regard as the inaction of Arab governments dealing with the crisis. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a child was killed on Saturday by rocket fire in the Bayada area of Homs, where troops fired shells at rebels in its Khaldiyeh district at the rate of one a minute. The monitoring group also reported heavy fighting near Damascus and in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the uprising, with at least seven people reported killed nationwide. Saudi Arabia and its neighbour Qatar have called for arming the opposition, which includes the Free Syrian Army made up of Syrian military defectors. Makdisi said the Istanbul gathering was not of Syria’s friends, “and its agenda does not include friendship towards Syria, but enmity.”