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Annan arrives in Syria to salvage peace plan as violent clashes continue

07-09-2012 13:44 BJT Special Report:Crisis in Syria |

DAMASCUS, July 9 (Xinhua) -- UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Syrian capital Damascus Sunday to meet with President Bashar al-Assad in a renewed effort to bring peace to the Middle East country.

Annan arrived at Dama Rose Hotel Sunday afternoon accompanied by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikddad. The hotel also houses UN monitors withdrawn from conflict zones in the country.

Annan made no comment about the details of his visit, but his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in a statement obtained by Xinhua that the former UN chief will hold talks with President al-Assad.

Meanwhile, a source told Xinhua that Annan's visit to Syria would be brief and last for less than 24 hours.

The international community's efforts to bring the 16-month unrest in Syria to an end politically have failed, Annan said earlier in an interview with French daily Le Monde. "The evidence shows that we have not succeeded."

He noted that the divisions between regional and world powers over how to resolve the Syrian issue are making the situation worse.

In an earlier interview with the Guardian, Annan made a few suggestions on how his peace plan could be salvaged, one of which is Iran should have a role to play in resolving the crisis.

Annan was appointed the UN-Arab League joint envoy in February to mediate the Syria crisis. He proposed in March a six-point peace plan calling for an immediate withdrawal of heavy weaponry from residential areas, a halt to all forms of armed violence, and daily ceasefire for unobstructed passage of humanitarian relief, among others.

However, the plan, backed by the UN Security Council and accepted by the Syrian government, did not go well as the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition constantly clashed.

Earlier on Sunday, the Syrian army started large-scale military exercises involving ground, air and naval troops.

The war games were meant to simulate "circumstances for repulsing a surprise aggressive assault" and aimed to "test the combat readiness of the army," according to Syria's state news agency SANA, which described the drills as part of an annual training plan.

The violence in Syria has ramped up notably with ongoing clashes between government troops and armed rebels, prompting the UN Supervision Mission to suspend its patrols.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently suggested that all members of the UN supervision mission in Syria be redeployed in Damascus instead of being scattered across Syria so as to focus on the proposed political transition.

UN said at least 9,000 Syrians were killed in the months-long unrest that started in March 2011, while the death figure released by the country's opposition is far more staggering, at 17,000.

The London-based activists' group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 99 people, including 61 civilians, were killed in violence across Syria on Sunday. The toll could not be independently verified.

The protracted violence in Syria has also forced 103,000 of its citizens to seek refuge in neighboring Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the UN humanitarian affairs agency said Friday.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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