Annan: Assad proposes gradual steps to end violence
Washington criticizes Iranian participation in cease-fire talks • Syrian mortars kill 3 in northern Lebanon; Russia sends Black Sea warship to Syria, says source.
Anti-Assad demonstration in Damascus Photo: REUTERS
WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD – Syrian President Bashar Assad has suggested
ending Syria’s conflict on a step-by-step basis, starting with districts that
have suffered the worst violence, international mediator Kofi Annan said on
The UN-Arab League envoy met Assad in Damascus on Monday,
launching a round of shuttle diplomacy to try to revive his moribund plan for
ending Syria’s 16-month-old uprising in which rebels are fighting to topple the
Speaking to reporters after talks in Iran, Annan
said Assad had proposed “building an approach from the ground up in some of the
districts where we have extreme violence – to try and contain the violence in
those districts and, step by step, build up and end the violence across the
Annan said he needed to discuss the proposal with the Syrian
opposition and could not give further details.
It was not clear how or
where he planned to do this with opposition leaders, who say there can be no
peaceful transition unless Assad, who tried to crush popular protests by armed
force from the moment they began, relinquishes power first.
with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Annan flew to Baghdad. He will
present the conclusions of his tour to the Security Council in New York on
Wednesday, according to the French Foreign Ministry.
The White House
criticized on Tuesday the concept that Tehran could be constructive in resolving
the conflict in Syria, after UN mediator Kofi Annan held meetings with Iranian
“I don’t think anybody with a straight face could argue that
Iran has had a positive impact on developments in Syria,” White House spokesman
Jay Carney said Tuesday.
The comment came after weeks of discussion over
Iran’s possible role in helping a UN-brokered attempt at a cease-fire in the
strife-ridden country in which the US has made it clear that it opposes Iranian
Though Annan had overlooked US objections in reaching out
to Iran, Carney still indicated US backing for his efforts.
the Annan plan, we believe that it is essential that the international community
come together behind the plan, that the plan be implemented,” Carney
“We remain highly skeptical about Assad’s willingness to meet his
commitments, which is another reason why Syria’s future cannot plausibly have
Bashar Assad in the government.
He’s long since lost his credibility,” he
Carney also urged a change of course in countries like Iran that
have supported the Syrian leader.
Syria’s major ally Russia proposed what
sounded like an alternative to the Western-backed, anti-Assad “Friends of Syria”
forum, with an offer to visiting Syrian opposition groups to host regular
meetings of Annan’s own “action group” of states, which is more balanced between
pro- and anti- Assad influences.
Russia, while having distanced itself
somewhat from Assad by saying it would no longer deliver arms to Damascus while
fighting continues, says no transition plan can presuppose that Assad, whose
family has ruled Syria for 42 years, will step down.
dispatched a destroyer-class warship to Syria on Tuesday, a Russian Navy source
told Reuters, and another military source was quoted as saying four more Russian
ships were en route to the violence-torn country.
Interfax quoted the
military source as saying the ships were carrying marines on a training mission
as well as food, water and fuel for Russia’s naval maintenance and repair base
in Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartous – Moscow’s only naval base outside of
the former Soviet Union and its navy regularly sends supplies there.
destroyer Smetlivy, which patrolled the waters off the coast of Syria in April
and May, was seen leaving the Black Sea port of Sevastopol on Tuesday
The activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least
17,129 people have been killed in Syria’s increasingly sectarian revolt pitting
rebels from the Sunni majority against Assad’s Shi’ite-related
It said 11,897 civilians or armed insurgents had been killed by
Assad’s forces, but that it could not determine how many fell into each
category. It also estimated that 884 defectors had been killed. The Observatory
put the death toll among Syrian security forces loyal to Assad at
The Observatory said some 100 people were killed on Monday, most
of them insurgents. In the northern Aleppo and Idlib provinces, which border
Turkey, several towns were shelled.
In Latakia province, further west but
also close to the Turkish border, Syrian forces fired on Jabal al-Akrad in an
attempt to regain control from rebels infiltrating from Turkey. In Deir al- Zor,
on the eastern road to Iraq, a volunteer medic was killed and at least four
soldiers died in fighting.
The opposition Syrian National Council said it
was time for the UN to declare a humanitarian emergency in Syria, where the UN
says 1.5 million out of a population of 22 million have been affected by the
Three people were killed when Syrian mortars hit villages in
neighboring north Lebanon.
Locals said they were under fire for five
hours overnight, after sporadic shelling in the area lasting several
It was the second such fatal attack in three days. Three people
were killed inside Lebanon by mortar fire at the weekend.