Annan ends Syria visit with no clear progress

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UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has ended talks with President Bashar al-Assad and left Syria with little sign of progress on halting the country’s growing political bloodshed.

“I am optimistic for several reasons,” Annan said in Damascus on Sunday. “The situation is so bad and so dangerous that all of us cannot afford to fail.”

There was no clear response from Assad to Annan’s “concrete proposals” for a ceasefire, dialogue and humanitarian aid. Assad told Annan opposition “terrorists” were blocking any political solution.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to meet Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in New York yesterday when the UN Security Council held a special meeting on Arab revolts.

Russia, long an ally of Syria, and China have blocked attempts to pass a Security Council resolution condemning Damascus for its attempts to crush a year-old rebellion by force, in which thousands have died.

Moscow and Beijing want any international blame for the violence to be apportioned more evenly. China’s assistant Foreign minister Zhang Ming said in Riyadh on Sunday both Syrian sides should stop fighting and aid should be sent to strife-torn areas — but he also warned other states not to use aid to “interfere”.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken a hawkish line against the Syrian government.