SYRIA last night promised to honour a ceasefire due to come into force this morning despite accusations that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was using it as an opportunity to inflict crushing blows on the opposition.
Kofi Annan, the UN envoy and architect of the ceasefire proposal, yesterday said he had received a promise from Mr Assad's government that it would "cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory" at 6am local time, in accordance with the plan.
Syrian state television read out a similar pledge. "After our armed forces completed successful operations in combating the criminal acts of the armed terrorist groups and enforced the state's rule over its territory, it has been decided to stop these operations from Thursday morning," it said.
World powers were last night discussing back-up plans for the crisis, with many assuming that the ceasefire would fail.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was due to speak to Mr Annan, who must decide whether to call an end to his own six-point peace plan or allow it more time.
Activists said that the regime had used the build-up to the ceasefire to make further raids, arresting activists and bombarding rebellious areas.
"We always knew this was the Assad plan," said one activist.
"We would be forced to hold back while he carried on his attacks. We fell into his trap but we had no choice."
Activists and video reports indicated shelling and other military action in Homs, Rastan, Deir al-Zour and other cities throughout the country.
There was no immediate sign that Russia and China, which both vetoed previous resolutions condemning Mr Assad, had changed their position.
But China issued a strongly worded call for Mr Assad to abide by the ceasefire, to add to a Russian demand on Tuesday for the leader to act "more decisively".
"Violence and conflict in Syria still persists and the toll of civilian casualties is rising," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said. "China is deeply concerned about this."
If Mr Annan declares that Syria has failed to keep the ceasefire, it would put huge pressure on both nations to change their position. But he is more likely to ask for an extension.
Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglum, said he would address all G8 ministers by video conference.
Turkey is said to be considering creating a buffer zone for refugees which could become a base for armed opposition to the regime, even if its original intention were only to protect Turkish territory. (© Daily Telegraph, London)