The Syrian defence ministry said Wednesday that it will cease military operations against rebel fighters from Thursday, the day set by peace envoy Kofi Annan as a deadline to halt hostilities, state television reported.

"After our armed forces completed successful operations in combating the criminal acts of the armed terrorist groups and enforced the state's rule over its territory, it has been decided to stop these operations from Thursday morning," the television quoted a ministry official it did not identify as saying.

The official said the armed forces would "remain on standby to retaliate against any attack by the armed terrorist groups against civilians, the security services, armed forces, or private or public property."

Annan, who drafted a deal to end 13 months of bloodshed, said in Geneva on Wednesday that he had received a written pledge from the Syrian government to stop fighting at dawn on Thursday.

Photo of Kofi Annan by Sebastian Derungs. Copyright by World Economic Forum