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Annan Pleads For More Help Resolving Syrian Crisis


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne. The U.N.'s envoy to Syria has not given up on his peace plan - even after another gruesome massacre of villagers; even after U.N. monitors were fired upon at a government checkpoint when they tried to investigate the latest killing. Instead, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan is asking for more help to stop the violence in Syria, from the West and from Syria's neighbors.

Yesterday, he addressed both the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council. Today, Annan meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. NPR's diplomatic correspondent, Michele Kelemen, has the story.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Kofi Annan, who's the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, came out of a Security Council session with a warning.

KOFI ANNAN: I shared with the council something that a foreign minister in the Middle East told me. Said Syria is not Libya; it will not implode. It will explode - and explode beyond his borders; and cause real problems in the region, that nobody wants.

KELEMEN: So he thinks world powers and regional players need to come together and look at the problems in - as Annan puts it - a coldly realistic way. He's calling for a contact group that would include anyone with influence with the Syrian government, and with the opposition, to make his peace plan actually work.

ANNAN: What do we do, to get this plan implemented? And if it's not this plan, what we do to bring about political peace and political settlement, to ensure that the region doesn't blow up.

KELEMEN: Adding to the sense of urgency was news of another massacre. Syria denies responsibility for the atrocities reported in a village near the central Syrian city of Hama. But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the violence underscores, as he puts it, the horrifying realities on the ground.

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: How many more times have we to condemn them, and how many ways must we say that we are outraged? The Syrian people are bleeding. They are angry, but they want peace and dignity. Above all, they all want action.

KELEMEN: Both Ban and Kofi Annan say there must be consequences for the Syrian government, for not implementing the peace plan. Other diplomats agreed. But Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, dismissed his colleague's talk about the need for sanctions.

AMBASSADOR VITALY CHURKIN: There is one missing link in what they are saying. They are not proposing anything which would resolve the problem of how to deal with the opposition.

KELEMEN: He'd like to see more pressure on the opposition, to begin a dialogue with the government; and on the armed opposition, to abide by the peace plan.

CHURKIN: This is an extremely dangerous situation. So simply sort of saying, now let's lean on the government, when we don't know what we're going to do about the opposition - to me, is something which is not going to lead to any progress.

KELEMEN: Russia is proposing an international conference on Syria and wants to invite Iran, another of Syria's allies. Kofi Annan says he thinks Iran has a role to play.

ANNAN: All these issues are at fairly early stage yet, and is under consultation. But I think Iran, as an important country in the region - I hope will be part of the solution.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the eve of her meeting with Annan, poured cold water on that idea.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLITNON: You know, regarding Iran, it is hard - for the United States, certainly - to imagine that a country putting so much effort into keeping Assad in power and in effect, helping to stage-manage the repression on the people of Syria, would be a constructive actor. And we think that would not be an appropriate participant, at this point, to include.

KELEMEN: She says she's disgusted by the latest violence in Syria, and thinks the only way to resolve the crisis is for President Assad to go. But she says she has more work to do to persuade countries like Russia to agree on the need for a political transition, and to help facilitate it.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.