U.N. debates alternatives to failed Syria peace plan
United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan and other leaders at the world body acknowledged Thursday that a six-point peace plan for Syria wasn't working and called for a new strategy to end the 15-month-old conflict that has taken more than 10,000 lives.
Annan, architect of the blueprint that has been widely ignored by both sides of the conflict since its imposition in mid-April, sounded a defeated note in asking the U.N. Security Council to broaden the diplomatic alliance trying to persuade the Syrian government and the rebels to negotiate an end to the fighting before it explodes into all-out civil war.
The expanded diplomatic effort, also being pushed by Moscow, would include the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Syrian neighbors Turkey and Iran.
U.S. and British officials have balked at any inclusion of Iran, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the regional nemesis of the West.
Annan spoke dejectedly of the prospects for his current plan to resolve the conflict, and he alluded to the need to consider other actions "if the plan is not working, or if we decide it's not the way to go."
"Syria is not Libya; it won't implode, it will explode beyond its borders," Annan said after a closed-door meeting of the 15-member Security Council. He noted that refugee outflows to Turkey and Jordan and sectarian fighting in Lebanon already demonstrate that the conflict threatens the entire region.
Annan, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League envoy Nabil Elaraby gave dispiriting accounts of the prospects for peace in Syria after 10 hours of intense meetings at the world body's headquarters in New York. They also signaled that the "stimulating discussion" and "passionate views" aired at the Security Council session show that the only U.N. forum with the power to impose pressure or punishment on the government in Damascus remains deeply divided over how to proceed.
The U.N. ambassadors of Russia and China reiterated at the General Assembly their opposition to any solution involving military intervention in Syria or forced "regime change," arguing that it was up to the Syrian people, not foreign powers, to decide who should govern in the future.
In Istanbul, Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made it clear that Washington wanted Assad to transfer power and leave the country so that a representative interim government could be put in place.
"The time has come for the international community to unite around a plan for post-Assad Syria," Clinton said.
The diplomatic scramble over Syria followed word of another large-scale massacre, this time near the central city of Hama. Opposition activists alleged that government shelling and execution-style killings by pro-government thugs in Mazraat al Kabir, west of Hama, killed 78 people, among them women and children.
Syrian state television blamed "terrorists" for the slayings, its code word for armed rebels trying to oust Assad.
U.N. observers who tried to reach the village to assess the incident were shot at and blocked from entering, the monitoring mission said in a statement.
"Each day seems to bring new additions to the grim catalog of atrocities," Ban said of the mass bloodshed reportedly carried out early Wednesday. He accused Assad of tolerating the killing of innocents, saying he had "lost all legitimacy" as a leader.
--Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Nabil Elaraby of the League of Arab States brief reporters in New York on Thursday after 10 hours of diplomatic gatherings aimed at halting the bloodshed in Syria. Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images