GENEVA - International talks on a way to resolve the increasingly bloody conflict in Syria opened in Geneva on Saturday with foreign powers in dispute over the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Kofi Annan, the former UN chief who is special international envoy on Syria, has been hoping for consensus on a plan for a unity government that, by excluding from the leadership figures deemed too divisive, would effectively mean Assad stepping down.

However, Moscow, a long-time ally of the Syrian strongman and an opponent in principle of what it sees as foreign meddling in domestic sovereignty, has voiced objections to any solution imposed on Syria from outside.

The United States and its European and Arab allies see no way ahead while power remains in the hands of Assad. The UN estimates at least 10,000 people have been killed as Assad's forces have tried to suppress the uprising against him.

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