Annan to hold 2nd meeting with Syrian president
BEIRUT - The Associated Press
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets with Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, in Damascus, Syria, on Saturday March 10, 2012. AP PhotoUnited Nations envoy Kofi Annan will hold a second meeting with the country's President Bashar Assad today to discuss proposals for stopping violence and starting a political dialogue, a U.N. official in Damascus said.
In his talks with Assad on Saturday, Annan made several proposals towards ending the country's yearlong political crisis. He was rebuffed by the president who rejected any immediate negotiations with the opposition, striking a further blow to already staggering international efforts for talks to end the conflict.
Assad told Annan that a political solution is impossible as long as "terrorist groups" threaten the country.
The opposition's political leadership has also rejected dialogue, saying talk is impossible after a crackdown that the U.N. estimates has killed more than 7,500 people. That makes it likely that the conflict will continue to edge toward civil war.
The official said Annan is scheduled to meet with the country's grand mufti, who is a senior cleric, and again with Assad Sunday before heading to the Gulf state of Qatar. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Meanwhile, activists said fresh violence erupted again in Syria's northern Idlib province, where troops launched Saturday a long-anticipated assault to crush the opposition, bombarding its main city with tank shells from all sides and clashing with rebel fighters struggling to hold back an invasion.
Syrian forces had been building up for days around Idlib, the capital of a hilly, agricultural province along the Syria-Turkey border that has been a hotbed of protests against Assad's regime.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said a civilian was killed Sunday in the village of al-Janoudieh where heavy clashes were taking place between troops and army defectors.
Three soldiers were also killed, the group said.
Troops had stormed the village in the northern Jisr al-Shughour area early Sunday and began a campaign of raids and arrests, activists said.