Kofi Annan Pushes Peace In Syria For Second Day

Mar 11, 2012
Originally published on March 11, 2012 9:05 am
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Rachel Martin. In Syria today, U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan meets with President Bashar al-Assad as part of an international effort to stop the violence between Syrian security forces and the opposition in the year-old conflict. This is the second meeting between the two. Yesterday, Assad rejected all proposals for ending the military assault on rebel-held neighborhoods. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: After inviting Kofi Annan to Syria, Assad told him that no dialogue with the opposition is possible so long as what he called terrorist groups are threatening the country. Annan is also facing deep skepticism from opposition leaders about negotiations now, underscoring the weak position of those advocating a diplomatic solution to what may be the Arab Spring's most complex and dangerous uprising.

A video posted on YouTube said to be from the northern town of Binnish, in Idlib province, showed smoke rising above damaged buildings. Other videos appeared to show children killed by the military assault. In Cairo, meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the Arab League, laying down his country's conditions for progress in Syria, starting with the withdrawal of international support for the opposition Syrian National Council. He's heard here through an interpreter.

SERGEI LAVROV: (Through Translator) The cessation of violence from either source, the creation of an impartial and independent monitoring mission - no external interference; no hindrance to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Syrians.

KENYON: Lavrov also urged support for Kofi Annan's mission, but so far the only backing for the former U.N. chief appears to be coming from outside Syria.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING AND GUNFIRE)

KENYON: Despite the fresh assault from the army's tanks and artillery, Syrians turned out in large numbers in several parts of the country Friday and yesterday to show solidarity with the neighborhoods under attack and call for Assad's ouster. Nearly a year since the beginning of the uprising, the determination of demonstrators to defy the regime seems undiminished. But so does the government's willingness to use large troop deployments and heavy weapons to quell unrest. After a wave of civilians from the Homs area fled to Lebanon last week, officials in Turkey are now making room for what could be a new stream of Syrians seeking refuge in southeastern Turkey. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.