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Annan tells Syria that conflict must end on April 12

By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has told the Syrian government and opposition that the year-long conflict must end at 6:00 a.m. local time on April 12 if the government meets an April 10 deadline to silence its weapons, Annan said on Thursday.

Speaking by video link from Geneva, Annan told the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly that 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."

"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.

The former U.N. chief spoke after the 15-nation Security Council increased the pressure on Syria by unanimously adopting a so-called "presidential statement" endorsing next week's deadline and warning Damascus of "further steps" if it did not meet the deadline, which the Syrians have publicly accepted.

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 pull back 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 Russia 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 6:00 a.m. Syrian time (0400 GMT) 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.

BAN SAYS SITUATION DETERIORATING

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari plans to hold a news conference at the United Nations later on Thursday, the U.N. press office said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly that the violence in Syria was getting worse.

"Despite the Syrian government's acceptance of (Annan's) plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate," Ban said.

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 Syrian President Bashar al-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. They said it was doubtful he would fully comply with the deadline since 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.

The peacekeeping department has sent a team of officials to Syria to discuss options for a possible U.N. monitoring mission.

A senior Western diplomat said that Western council members hope Annan will brief the council on April 11 to let them know whether Damascus has met the first deadline and again on April 13 after the second 48-hour deadline has passed.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomat said that Annan would be the one to decide whether Syria has met the deadline based on the "best available information."

Russia and China have voiced full support for Annan and the April 10 and April 12 deadlines.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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