UN envoy says Syria president discusses transition
GENEVA (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has discussed the possibility of forming a transitional Syrian government as proposed by an international conference in Geneva last month, international envoy Kofi Annan said Wednesday.
Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, said that during his discussions with Assad in Damascus this week the Syrian leader "did offer a name" of someone who could serve as an interlocutor for the regime as it explores ways of forming a transitional government with the opposition.
"And I indicated that I wanted to know a bit more about the individual, so we are at that stage," Annan told reporters in Geneva after speaking by videoconference to a closed session of the U.N. Security Council in New York. Annan did not identify the person whose name Assad put forward.
Annan urged the 15-nation council, the most powerful arm of the United Nations, to send a message to the Syrian government and the opposition that there will be "consequences" if they don't comply with demands for an immediate cease-fire, a U.N. diplomat said.
Russia and China, key allies of Assad and veto-wielding council members, have blocked repeated attempts by the United States and its European allies to even threaten "consequences" -- a diplomatic code word for sanctions. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the briefing was private.
The U.N. sent a 300-strong unarmed observer mission to Syria for 90 days to oversee the cessation of violence and monitor implementation of the Annan plan, which was supposed to take effect in mid-April. The team was forced to withdraw from key conflict areas because of escalating fighting and the council must decide what to do about extending its mandate, which expires on July 20.
At a conference in Geneva on June 30, Russia insisted that any political transition must have the "mutual consent" of both Assad's government and the opposition, essentially handing a veto on the peacemaking process to both sides.