Assad agrees to UN peace plan – but attacks spill into Lebanese village

 

Fears of the conflict in Syria spilling over into neighbouring countries were heightened yesterday as residents of a border village said President Bashar al-Assad's troops had crossed into Lebanon, destroying farm buildings and clashing with rebel fighters.

The fighting near the village of al-Qaa and continued reports of killings within Syria's own borders came despite an announcement from the United Nations that the Syrian government has agreed to accept the peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, who is spearheading international diplomatic efforts to end the fighting. The six-point plan calls for a UN-supervised ceasefire by all parties.

"More than 35 Syrian soldiers came across the border and started to destroy houses," said Abu Ahmed, 63, a resident of the area near the border that has become a sanctuary for many Syrians fleeing the violence at home.

Witnesses said Syrian security forces crossed a few hundred metres over the boundary, travelling in armoured personnel carriers and exchanging machine-gun fire with rebels. A spokesman for the Lebanese army confirmed there was fighting near the poorly demarcated border, but denied any incursion into its territory.

Analysts speculated that the Syrian army may be trying to destroy supply networks to the city of Homs, just 40km (25 miles) away, with control of the area strategically crucial to both sides.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television showed President Assad touring the devastated Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr, which suffered a month-long assault by regime forces. Surveying bombed out buildings he is shown meeting supporters who chant "we are with you until death". However, the crowd only appears to be a few people deep.

"Now the state has become involved and security has returned, we all need to work on reconstruction so Baba Amr can be a lot better than it was before," he said.

Mr Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, was in Beijing yesterday meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to drum up support up support for his initiative.

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