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Syria state media: Assad accepts U.S-Russia cease-fire deal

By usatoday.com

Syrian state media said Tuesday that President Bashar Assad accepted a temporary “cessation of hostilities” deal brokered by the United States and Russia on Monday.

The embattled president said he would accept a deal that would cover his military forces and armed opposition groups, but exclude the Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front terrorist organizations, State-affiliated news agency Sana said.

The pause in fighting takes effect Saturday. A previous deal to halt fighting collapsed.

United Nations-sponsored peace talks between the Syrian government and a delegation representing opposition groups  — the High Negotiations Committee — broke down on Feb. 3. Those talks may resume on Feb. 25.

The HNC said Monday it too would accept the U.S.-Russia cease-fire plan provided Assad halted his military campaign against 18 rebel-held areas. Assad reserved the right to retaliate against rebel groups for any violation of the cease-fire.

Washington has conceded that the agreement will not be easy to execute.

“We are all aware of the significant challenges ahead,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Monday.

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