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Ceasefire in Syria's Homs extended: governor

Civilians wait to be evacuated from a besieged area of Homs February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Thaer Al Khalidiya
Civilians wait to be evacuated from a besieged area of Homs February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Thaer Al Khalidiya

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A humanitarian ceasefire in the Syrian city of Homs was extended on Thursday for three more days, the city's governor told Reuters.

"The ceasefire has been extended for an additional three days, starting from today, to allow the evacuation of the remaining civilians," Talal al-Barazi, the governor, said by telephone.

He added that a total of 1,400 people had been evacuated from the besieged Old City since last Friday, when the U.N.-brokered ceasefire began. Of those, 220 were still undergoing background checks, he said, meaning they were being detained for questioning.

While women and children have been free to leave, males aged between 15 and 55 are deemed of fighting age by the Syrian authorities and are being vetted by the security forces. Barazi said 70 people had been cleared for release on Thursday.

In a statement late on Wednesday, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the government had pledged to release men after they had been screened. "We expect them to keep that pledge," Edgar Vasquez, the spokesman, said.

"Given the regime's past actions, the international community cannot take this for granted and needs to monitor the fate of these men," he added. "The regime continues to hold a large number of detainees in terrible conditions."

(Reporting by Laila Bassam in Beirut and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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