Zeina Karam

BEIRUT: Syriaís President Bashar Assad said Thursday he will spare no effort to make U.N. envoy Kofi Annanís peace plan a success, but demanded that armed opponents battling his regime commit to halting violence.

Gunmen kidnapped a high-ranking military pilot outside the capital and assassinated two army colonels in the countryís business hub, in what appeared to be part of a stepped-up campaign by the battered opposition against the symbols of Assadís power.

The violence Thursday underlined the Syrian governmentís predicament: Acceptance and implementation of the U.N. plan, which calls for a full cease-fire, risks spelling the end of an autocratic regime which has relied largely on brute force to stay in power over the past four decades.

Assadís condition of an express promise from the opposition to stop attacks could complicate Annanís attempts to bring an end to more than a year of violence that the U.N. says has killed more than 9,000 people.

The opposition has cautiously welcomed Annanís six-point plan, but it is also deeply skeptical Assad will carry it out, believing he has accepted it just to win time while his forces continue their bloody campaign to crush the uprising. Armed rebels are unlikely to stop fighting unless offensives by security forces halt. It is also difficult for rebel forces to uniformly stop fighting since there is no central command structure.

Last year, Assad agreed to an Arab-brokered peace plan similar to Annanís, pledging to work with observers who traveled to Syria on a mission to end the crackdown. But the regime failed to pull out its tanks from towns and cities, saying the country was under attack from the armed groups, and the bloodshed has escalated sharply since the League halted its observer mission on Jan. 28.

That failure tempered reaction to Assadís promises Thursday. It is not clear how he can abide by Annanís plan without losing control over cities recently recovered from rebel control by the military.