Fresh clashes erupt in Syria

International envoy Kofi Annan urged Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to immediately implement a ceasefire, as fighting raged on Friday even after the embattled leader said he had accepted the peace plan. Demonstrators took to the street across Syria to protest against what they regard as the inaction of Arab governments in the face of a crackdown that the United Nations says has cost more than 9,000 lives since March last year. UN-Arab League peacebroker Annan’s ceasefire appeal came as monitors said shells rained down on Homs, a main rebel bastion which has been the focus of much of President Assad’s year-long crackdown on anti-regime protests.

“We expect him to implement this plan immediately. Clearly we have not seen a cessation of hostilities on the ground. This is our great concern,” the spokesman said, adding the “deadline is now” for Assad’s regime to end all violence. The plan calls for a commitment to stop all armed violence, a daily two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, media access to all areas affected by the fighting, an inclusive Syrian-led political process, a right to demonstrate, and release of arbitrarily detained people.

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Suu Kyi says Myanmar vote unfair

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday that Myanmar’s landmark weekend elections will be neither free nor fair because of widespread irregularities but vowed to continue her candidacy for the sake of the long-repressed nation. Suu Kyi said opposition candidates had been targeted in stone-throwing incidents, campaign posters vandalized and members of her party intimated during the run-up to Sunday’s closely-watched parliamentary by-elections.

During a news conference on the lawn of her crumbling lakeside residence in Yangon, the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said government officials were involved in some of the irregularities and that they go “beyond what is acceptable for democratic elections.” “Still,” she said, “we are determined to go forward because we think this is what our people want.”

The vote to fill several dozen vacant legislative seats comes after months of surprising reforms carried out by Myanmar’s nominally civilian, postjunta government, including the release of political prisoners, truces with rebel groups and a dramatic easing of media censorship. The poll is crucial test of Myanmar’s commitment to change, and Western nations have held out the possibility of lifting some sanctions if all goes smoothly.

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