Annan and Assad Agree on Political Approach for Syria Amid Continued Fighting

UN envoy Annan attempting to rescue his six-point peace plan, speaks with Assad before visit to Syrian ally Iran.

UN peace envoy Kofi Annansaid he and President Bashar Assad agreed on Monday on anapproach to Syria's conflict that he would now take to theopposition, and he flew on to Iran for talks with the mainregional ally of Damascus.

The former UN secretary general is trying to rescue hissix-point peace plan, which was worked out with the Syriangovernment and rebels in April but faltered because theceasefire it was supposed to begin with never took hold.

Major powers agreed at a meeting with Annan on June 30 thata transitional government should be set up in Syria, but remainat odds over what part Assad might play in the process.

"I just had a positive and constructive discussion withPresident Assad," Annan said before leaving for Tehran.

"We agreed on an approach which I will share with theopposition," he told reporters in Damascus. He gave no details,but again stressed the importance of halting violence that haskilled over 15,000 people in 16 months, by an opposition count.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said in aTwitter message: "In both meetings we reassured Annan of Syria'scommitment to implement the 6-point plan and hoped [the] otherside is mutually committed."

In a TV interview on Sunday, Assad said he remainedcommitted to Annan's plan and accused the United States, SaudiArabia, Qatar and Turkey of supplying arms and logisticalsupport to insurgents fighting to end 42 years of Assad familydomination of the pivotal Arab state.

"We know that [Annan] is coming up against countlessobstacles but his plan should not be allowed to fail, it is avery good plan," he told Germany's ARD network.

"The main obstacle [is] that many countries don't want [it]to succeed. So they offer political support and they still sendarmaments and send money to terrorists in Syria," Assad said, according to a transcript of the interview, held in English.

Sectarian Rivalry

Syria, led by members of the Alawite sect, related toShi'ite Islam, has alleged that the Sunni Muslim-led Gulfmonarchies are backing unrest among its Sunni majority to checkShi'ite influence in the region, notably that of Shi'ite Iran.

Russia, which has thus far defended Assad from the threat ofUN sanctions, said it would not deliver Yak-130 fighter planesor other new arms to Syria while the situation there remainedunresolved.

"While the situation in Syria is unstable, there will be nonew deliveries of arms there," said Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputydirector of the Federal Service for Military TechnicalCooperation, told journalists at the Farnborough Airshow inBritain, according to the Interfax agency.

The refusal to send more arms to Syria - a trade dating backto the Soviet era - may signal the most pointed move yet byMoscow to distance itself from Assad as rebels have gained someground and the death toll climbs.

Annan's plan calls for an end to fighting by governmentsecurity forces and rebels, withdrawal of the government's heavyweapons from towns, return of the army to barracks, humanitarianaccess, and dialogue between the government and opposition aimedat a "political transition".

Opponents of Assad invited to Moscow for talks insisted thatthe political dialogue Annan is trying to initiate must startwith a change at the top - a position that Russia rejects, andAnnan's plan does not specify.

"The transition period must begin with Assad's departure," said Samir Aita, representative of the opposition DemocraticSyria Foundation. "A national government must be created, and inorder to do that, an all-Syrian national conference, where allrepresentatives of the Syrian population would express theiropinions, needs to take place."

Fighting goes on

Anti-Assad activists in Syria reported army shelling andclashes with rebels on Monday in Deir al-Zor, Deraa, Homs, Aleppo and a neighborhood of Damascus. Residents reported thesound of gunfire in the capital. An activist website said over 100 Syrians had been killed on Sunday, most of them civilians

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday thatopposition forces were growing more effective, and the soonerthe violence ended, the better the chances of sparing Syria'sgovernment a "catastrophic assault" by rebel fighters were.

While Assad has faced sanctions and internationalcondemnation over his crackdown on dissent, major Western andArab powers have shied away from direct military action.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a speech inthe Netherlands: "We will continue to try to persuade Russia andChina, but if the Kofi Annan plan fails no option to protectlives will be off the table."

Assad told his German interviewer he did not fear that hemight share the fate of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whowas killed after capture, or Hosni Mubarak, the toppled Egyptianpresident sentenced to life imprisonment.

Assad said that most of the victims of the uprising weresupporters of the government.

"From the list that we have, from the names that we have, the highest percentage are people who are killed by gangs,different kinds of gangs ... If you talk about the supporters ofthe government - the victims from the security and the army- are more than the civilians," he said.

Activists, who keep lists of names and dates of death, andWestern governments say more than 15,000 people have been killedby forces loyal to the government, the great majority of thempeople who opposed the government and their innocent families.

Syria says more than 2,600 members of the security forceshave been killed.