The White House on Thursday bluntly told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to "stop killing your people" as the Obama administration closely watched whether Syrian forces kept the terms of a fragile ceasefire brokered by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan.
In an unusually direct statement to the regime in Damascus, Obama press secretary Jay Carney said from the White House podium: "Our message is to the Assad regime: stop killing your people. Stop the violence. Commit yourself to a ceasefire. Commit yourself fully to implementing the Annan plan. Remove your troops, withdraw your materiel, your weapons, from urban population centers. And I hope that this message is heard."
"While there are some signs of a tentative ceasefire holding at this point in time that is not the same as full implementation of the commitments that the Assad regime made 12 days ago when it said it would implement the Annan plan," Carney said. Annan's six-point plan notably calls for an end to a bloody 13-month crackdown by Syrian forces on opposition to Assad, whose family has held an iron grip on power for four decades. UN estimates put the death toll at about 9,000 people. Annan's blueprint also urges talks between Assad's government and the opposition to launch a "political transition" -- a relatively vague term that stops well-short of a proposal from the Arab League group of nations that calls for Assad to step down.
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