Exclusive: Russia backs Annan idea of Syria unity government: envoys
Russia and other big powers have told mediator Kofi Annan that they support his idea of a Syrian national unity cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would exclude those whose participation would undermine it, envoys said on Wednesday.
Annan's proposal for a political transition aimed at ending the 16-month conflict in Syria is one of the main topics that Russia, the other four permanent Security Council members and key players in the Middle East will discuss at a meeting in Geneva on Saturday, diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
One diplomat summarized Annan's proposal, saying the Syria conflict can only end when all sides see a peaceful way to a shared future." Annan made clear it was "vital that (any) settlement (be) irreversible, (with) clear transition steps in fixed timeline," he said.The diplomat added that the idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though Annan's proposal does not explicitly say Assad could not serve in a national unity government. That gives Russia the option of insisting that Assad be allowed to stay in power.
"The Russians signaled to Annan that they accept his transition plan," he said. Several Western diplomats confirmed his remarks, adding that all five permanent veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members backed it.
Another diplomat said Russia's acceptance of Annan's proposal, which he circulated to the five permanent Security Council members this week, did not mean it has abandoned Assad.
"I'm very skeptical," he said. "I don't see the Russians giving up on Assad."
How many times have we heard Russia was going to change and they just laugh it off?
This idea is kind of cool on the face of it, but I just don't see how it would ever work.
Assad won't step down unless there's a gun to his head and I don't think his army and killers will just go home. They're working non-stop at the most ferocious pace ever right now.
Russia Said to Endorse Replacing Assad in Turn From Ally
Russia has endorsed a detailed United Nations road map for a political transition in Syria, a sign that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost the support of a key ally, according to three United Nations diplomats.
Persuading Assad to step aside and forming a transitional government to pave the way for elections will be at the core of a June 30 conference of top diplomats organized by Kofi Annan, the UN’s special envoy on Syria, the officials said. All three asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday called the conference a potential “turning point” in the conflict that already has claimed more than 10,000 lives.I have a feeling this will probably just drag things on longer.Even with the apparent international agreement, ushering Assad out and a transitional government in will be difficult, if it’s possible at all, the U.S. and UN officials acknowledged.
Among the difficulties, the U.S. officials said, will be bringing the warring Syrian parties together to reach an agreement on a transitional government; defining who would control Syria’s military, intelligence and security services; neutralizing the Alawite militias and the armed opposition; and providing multinational aid to encourage a transition toward elections.
The Syria action group should “agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and agree on actions that will make these objectives a reality on the ground,” Annan said in a statement distributed by e-mail.
It took almost a year to get Saleh in Yemen to resign, even after he agreed to.
Syrian Arrests Are Said to Have Snared Tens of Thousands
DAMASCUS, Syria — After Syrian secret police officers spotted Azam at a peaceful demonstration in the heart of this city, he said, they chased him down and dragged him off to prison, where he was tortured during his 40 days in confinement.
“They take people and forget them because there are so many others coming in,” said Azam, who asked to be identified by only his first name. He said he had been detained by air force security officers, members of one of more than a dozen secret police services in Syria.
While the world’s attention has been focused on the military escalation in Syria, the government has also waged an unrelenting campaign of arrests that has snared tens of thousands of people, according to lawyers and activists in Syria and human rights groups. They say the arrests have focused on two groups: secular activists, including those organizing humanitarian aid, and men and boys from the towns that the Syrian Army has besieged or has retaken from the armed opposition.
Al-Jazeera: 1,500 women raped in prison, details one woman's sexual torture
“All the women there were in their underwear only, despite the bitter cold,” Noor said. “We were beaten, tortured with electric shocks, and raped. This became our daily routine. The shock would burn our bodies and paralyze our ability to resist before the rapes."
Noor said that military officers and their subordinates raped her many times.
“When someone said he cannot do it because he had sisters or daughters, he was told that he should obey since this was a military order, a command,” she said.
She reported other forms of torture as well. Although she felt unable to go into detail, she said that cats and rats were used in an unspecified way during the rapes. She said she is also unable to eat bread now because it reminds her of torture in the prison.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1atI...layer_embeddedThe battle to control a building in Homs
Activists posted a video that purports to show heavy clashes between government forces and members of the Free Syrian Army (al-Ansar Batallion) in the neighbourhood of Jouret al-Shayyah in Homs.
The narrator in the first footage says the clashes were taking place on Sunday. The later part of the video purports to shows clashes yesterday as Assad forces tried to reclaim control of a building in the neighbourhood.
Towards the end of the video, the narrator says that building had finally been “liberated” by the battalion last night.
https://twitter.com/#!/GinnySacksMoleRpt frm Habeet, tiny town in Idleb. I don't have the stomach to match the video up w/ the kids' photos I took there.
Local resident: Those in video killed by helicopter rockets in Habeet; others remain trapped under debris.
@Brown_Moses hey, new Brigade formed in Rastan (these guys getting v organised) made up of diff battalions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRJnS...&feature=share
This looks like approx 9 battalions coming under one brigade--means that 2 big brigades now operating in Rastan
Damascus Suburbs: Douma: A large number of shells have falled on Amer Bin Khatab Road
Damascus Suburbs: Douma: Massive military reinforcements, including buses and cars loaded with regime forces are on main road in Harasta and are headed to Douma
Damascus Suburbs: Douma: A large number of artillery shells have fallen on Tayseer Taha street as smoke columns rise in the region
Damascus Suburbs: Hammourieh: Heavy and continuous artillery shelling has been ongoing for hours in conjunction with intense gunfire by heavy weaponry, and anti-aircrafts in the farms, Ras Ain, Asa'aouri, and Beit Sawa. Residents are in a state of panic and anxiety
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?p...17848338242310Homs: Krak des Chevaliers: Fierce artillery shelling has been ongoing for hours in the city
Homs: Krak des Chevaliers: Three people were martyred and several were injured in an attack by Shabiha of the eastern entrance of the city
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?p...17848338242310Homs: Talbiseh: The regime's army has renewed its shelling of the city in an intense and indiscriminate manner
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?p...17848338242310Damascus Suburbs: Harasta: Smoke columns rise begind Salah Addin mosque due to a mortar shell that fell behind the mosque, and a state of terror among residents
Idlib: Khan Sabeel: Ahmad Hasan Al-Ahmad, from Tal Karseen, was martyred due to indiscriminate shelling in the city
Shelling of Talbiseh, Homs