Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as international peace envoy for Syria in the face of an armed rebellion against President Bashar Assad whose violence shows no sign of abating after 17 months of strife.

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said in a statement: "Mr. Annan has informed me of his intention not to renew his mandate when it expires on 31 August 2012," adding that he and Elaraby were in discussions on appointing a successor to Annan.

"Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments," Ban continued.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, a clearly frustrated Annan blamed "finger pointing and name calling" in the 15-nation Security Council as on of the reasons for his decision to step down.

Mr Annan authored a six-point peace plan for Syria which was intended to bring an end to the fighting. Annan's mission, centered on an April ceasefire that never took hold, has looked irrelevant as fighting has intensified in Damascus and Aleppo.

Annan has commented that he expects the 6-point plan and the "Syria Action Group" to continue, but predicts new initiatives to resolved the crisis in Syria.
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Russia has expressed regret over Annan's decision, with Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin commenting: "We understand that it's his decision." "We regret that he chose to do so. We have supported very strongly Kofi Annan's efforts. He has another month to go, and I hope this month is going to be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances."

Churkin quickly started finger-pointing about Annan's departure, suggesting that Western powers that opposed "reasonable and balanced proposals" in the Security Council undermined Annan's peace efforts from the start.

Churkin added he was encouraged that Ban was looking for a successor to Annan.

Council diplomats have said privately that the United States and Gulf Arab states have become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks with what they saw as Annan's dogged commitment to diplomacy at a time when they believe all avenues for dialogue with Syrian President Bashar Assad have been exhausted.

The White House has said Kofi Annan's resignation as mediator in Syria highlighted Syrian President Bashar Assad's refusal to abide by a UN-backed peace plan and the failure of Russia and China to hold Assad accountable at the UN Security Council, blaming them for vetoing three council resolutions intended to ratchet up the pressure on Assad to stop his attacks on civilians and halt the fighting, which has escalated into a full-scale civil war.

"President Assad, despite his promise to abide by the Kofi Annan plan, continues to brutally murder his own people," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday.

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