Syria says opposition must give up arms first

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By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria has told international envoy Kofi Annan in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that it is "keen to end violence" but insists that armed opposition groups give up their weapons first.

The Syrian response falls far short of U.S. and European demands that Syrian forces stop fighting first — and even Russia's insistence that both sides stop fighting simultaneously. But it does leave open the door for talks, and Annan is sending a team to Damascus on Sunday to continue talks on implementing his proposal.

The Syrian letter asks Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, "to provide guarantees to the Syrian government that the armed groups will cease all armed aggressions and give up their weapons ... in exchange of a full pardon."

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