Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has welcomed the ceasefire in Syria while saying it is only a "first step" in the implementation of Kofi Annan's plan. The six-point plan, proposed by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and approved by the UN Security Council, includes a pullback of troops from the cities, a halt to fighting, the release of unjustly arrested people, and respect for the people's right to peaceful protest and for press freedom.

Clinton, who spoke after a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Washington, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cannot "pick and choose" what part of the plan he wants to accept and implement. She urged the Syrian government to withdraw troops from all cities and accept a transition of political power.

The UN-backed Syrian ceasefire plan appeared to take hold on Thursday, lifting hopes for an end to the deadly clashes between opposition and pro-government forces that have killed over 9,000 people in the past year.Annan negotiated a ceasefire last month, which both parties reluctantly agreed to support.

(Agencies)