World Powers to Hold Talks Saturday on Syria

Posted June 30th, 2012 at 4:50 am (UTC-5)
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World and regional powers gather Saturday for a meeting called by international peace envoy Kofi Annan, who wants an agreement on new ideas for dealing with the Syrian conflict.

As he arrived for the meeting in Geneva, British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Russia and China to agree with Western powers on a political transition plan for Syria, although he said that will be difficult.

Hague also said a stable future for Syria means President Bashar al-Assad should relinquish power.

Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, has said any solution to the crisis must be decided by the Syrians themselves. China is taking a similar stand.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to agree on how to deal with the rising violence in Syria.

But Lavrov said after the talks in St. Petersburg there is a chance world powers can find common ground on Syria at Saturday's meeting. He said he sensed a change in Clinton's position on the Syria crisis.

Mr. Annan has called for a unity government that would exclude people who jeopardize stability in Syria. His plan does not explicitly say President Assad must give up power.

Throughout the Syrian crisis, Russia has refused to call for Mr. Assad to step down.

Syrian opposition groups say they will not accept any political transition plan that lacks an explicit call for Mr. Assad to leave office.

On Friday, Syrian forces pounded the Damascus suburb of Douma with artillery, after one of the deadliest days since the uprising began last March. Syrian rights activists say violence across the country killed at least 180 people Thursday.