UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council agreed on Thursday to a statement calling upon Syria to comply with an April 10 deadline to halt fighting and withdraw its forces from Syrian population centers, and threatened to consider "further steps" if it did not.
Western diplomats said there had been no objections to the statement, a watered-down version of an earlier draft, and it would be formally adopted by the 15-nation panel later on Thursday. This meant it appeared to have the support of China and Syrian ally Russia, they said.
U.N. Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the council on Monday the Syrian government had accepted the deadline, and that he would push for an end of rebel operations within 48 hours after the government stops fighting. He asked for council support.
The Security Council statement asks 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 put sanctions on Syria.
"The Security Council calls upon the Syrian government to implement urgently and visibly its commitments ... to a) ease 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 and to fulfill these in their entirety by no later than 10 April, 2012," it says in the statement, obtained by Reuters.
Syria has publicly accepted the deadline, but Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's intentions. They said it was doubtful he would fully comply with the deadline since he has broken previous promises to halt to military action against civilian protesters.
"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," the council says in the statement.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Vicki Allen