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Call for truce

Claims a ceasefire between Assad forces and Syrian militants have been agreed on remain disputed.

BEIRUT/CAIRO — Syria said today its military command was still studying a proposal for a holiday ceasefire with rebels – contradicting international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi’s earlier announcement that Damascus had agreed to a truce.

The statement threw Brahimi’s efforts to arrange a pause in the bloodshed in Syria into even more confusion, as the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have given no indication they would be willing to sign up to it.

A previous ceasefire arrangement in April collapsed within days, with both sides accusing the other of breaking it.

Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League special envoy, had crisscrossed the Middle East to push the warring factions and their international backers to agree to a truce over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha – a mission that included talks with Assad in Damascus at the weekend.

“After the visit I made to Damascus, there is agreement from the Syrian government for a ceasefire during the Eid,” Brahimi told a news conference at the Arab League in Cairo.

Within an hour, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the proposal was still being studied by the armed forces’ leadership.

“The final position on this issue will be announced tomorrow,” a ministry statement said.

The holiday starts tomorrow and lasts three or four days. Brahimi did not specify the precise time period for a truce.

Nor did the initiative include plans for international observers and rebel sources had earlier told Reuters there was little point if it could not be monitored or enforced.

The two sides are now locked in a battle with huge potential ramifications in the northwest.

Syrian warplanes carried out bombing raids today on the strategic northern town of Maarat al-Numan and nearby villages while rebels surrounded an army base to its east, an activist monitor said. (Reuters)

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