Damascus: Syria on Monday demanded guarantees that armed groups cease fire before withdrawing its troops from protest hubs as agreed with special envoy Kofi Annan, even as a UN truce deadline loomed.
   
The Foreign Ministry's request came as a weekend escalation in violence claimed almost 170 lives, most of them civilians, ahead of the UN deadline of Tuesday for regime forces to cease fire.
   
The surge in bloodshed prompted harsh words from Annan who said the escalation was "unacceptable." Monitors said 38 people were killed today, a day after nearly 130 died across Syria, while 200 others were arrested in raids by government forces pushing to crush dissent.
   
"To say that Syria will pull back its forces from towns on April 10 is inaccurate, Kofi Annan having not yet presented written guarantees on the acceptance by armed terrorist groups of a halt to all violence," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
   
On Thursday, the UN Security Council formally endorsed the deadline, but Damascus said a day later that the number of "terrorist acts" has risen since the deal was agreed with the UN and Arab League envoy.
   
"Mr Annan has not submitted written guarantees from the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on stopping their funding to terrorist groups," the Foreign Ministry said of its key regional critics.
   
Annan's peace plan calls for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from protest cities on Tuesday, with a complete end to fighting 48 hours later.

(Agencies)