The Syrian government will not pull troops from cities and towns engulfed by the country's unrest before life returns to normal in these areas, a top official said. The statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi was the first response to an appeal by Kofi Annan to Syrian authorities to stop military activities as "the stronger party." It suggests that any implementation of Annan's plan to end the conflict—which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accepted—will be a long and complicated process. Damascus appears to be playing for time by indicating broad agreement with the plan but then quibbling over details.
Makdessi also said Syria has defeated those seeking to topple the Syrian regime, even as activists reported fresh violence. "The battle to bring down the state in Syria has already ended and the battle of reinforcing stability has started," he said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, discussed with Saudi officials ways to pressure Assad to end the bloodshed. "I believe we all agree on the need for an immediate cease-fire to the systematic killing," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said at a joint news conference with Clinton. (Read more Syria stories.)