Syria calls for deployment of int'l monitors

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MOSCOW (AP) -- Syria's foreign minister said Tuesday the government has already withdrawn some forces from some Syrian cities and that the U.N.-brokered cease-fire must start simultaneously with the deployment of the international observer mission.

"We have already withdrawn forces and army units from several Syrian provinces," Walid Muallem said, following talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart.

But activists say that Syrian forces have attacked two towns as a deadline passed for President Bashar Assad's troops to start withdrawing from populated areas in the kickoff to an internationally brokered truce deal.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it saw no signs of large-scale troop pullback Tuesday and that most areas of Syria appeared calm. This is a sharp contrast to heavy attacks by Syrian forces on restive towns in recent days.

Activists reported shelling in the northern village of Marea and mortar fire in the city of Homs.

A collapse of the truce deal by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan could move Syria closer to an all-out civil war. A 13-month uprising has turned increasingly violent in response to a brutal regime crackdown.

Russia on Tuesday called on the opposition as well as countries that "influence them" to use their powers to bring about the cease-fire.

"We would like to call on all opposition leaders and all countries that have influence on the political and military opposition to use their influence to bring about an immediate cease-fire as is provided by Kofi Annan's plan," said Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov also said after the meeting with Muallem that Syria's government "could have been more active and decisive" in implementing the peace plan.