UN begs Iran for help with Syria crisis as bombs continue to fall amid fears of all-out civil war
- Iran foreign minister: 'Change in Syria should come under leadership of Assad'
- Hillary Clinton blames Russia for keeping Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in power
- China reiterates calls for all sides in Syria to respect a ceasefire, due to begin tomorrow
- Hopes for tomorrow's planned ceasefire fade as fighting continues
By MATT BLAKE
The UN begged Iran for help in solving the deepening crisis in Syria today as bombs continued to fall across the war-torn nation.
In a desperate friend-finding mission to Tehran, special envoy Kofi Annan said Iran could play a vital role in halting Syria from slipping into all-out civil war.
His plea came as activists reported fresh violence a day before an international cease-fire is supposed to take effect.
Friend-finding mission: UN special envoy Kofi Anna, left, greets Iranian foreign minister Ali-Akbar Salehi in Tehran as he tried to bolster support for his faltering plan to stop Syria's slide toward civil war
Iran is one of Syria's strongest allies, and former U.N. chief Annan went there to bolster support for his faltering plan to stop the country's slide toward civil war.
'Iran, given its special relations with Syria, can be part of the solution,' Annan said during a news conference with Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. 'The geopolitical location of Syria is such that any miscalculation and error can have unimaginable consequences.'
However, Iran has always opposed any foreign intervention in the crisis and Salehi insisted that 'change in Syria' should come under the leadership of Assad.
'Any change in Syria should be made by the Syrian government under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad who promised to achieve these changes to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people,' Salehi added.
Support: US Senators John McCain, right, and Joe Lieberman, left, greet Syrian refugees during their visit at Yayladagi refugee camp in Hatay, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Turkey
Safe and sound: Syrian refugees look out from behind the fence at Yayladagi refugee camp
Annan visited Iran a day after US Senator John McCain said ground troops are now the only way of ousting defiant Syrian president Bashar al Assad and ending the violence.
During a visit to Yayladagi refugee camp in Hatay,on the Turkish-Syrian border with fellow senator Joe Lieberman yesterday, he said: 'I think it was a failure from the start. Most of us knew because there was no pressure for Bashar Assad to actually stop the killing. We think it's going to require military action on the ground to get him to leave.'
The conflict in Syria is among the most explosive of the Arab Spring, in part because of the country's allegiances to powerful forces including Lebanon's Hezbollah and Shiite powerhouse Iran.
Hundreds of refugees have fled the country, filling camps in neighbouring Turkey.
Mission: Yesterday, Annan met with representatives of Syrian refugees at the Yayladagi refugee camp in Hatay province at the Turkish-Syrian border
Warm reception: Annan is welcomed by Syrian refugee children upon his arrival at Yayladagi refugee camp
The uprising that began more than a year ago seeks the ouster of authoritarian President Bashar Assad.
Syria's regime defied the Tuesday deadline to pull out troops from cities and towns that was set in the deal brokered by Annan and launched fresh attacks on rebellious areas.
But Annan insists there is still time to salvage the truce by 6 a.m. Thursday, the deadline for government and rebel fighters to cease all hostilities.
There was more violence on Wednesday, putting the chances of a truce even deeper in doubt as Syrian troops took control of large parts of villages and towns near the border with Turkey.
The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, reported shelling of several rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs.
Continue: The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, reported shelling of several rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs
Dashed hopes: There was more violence today, putting the chances of a truce even deeper in doubt as Syrian troops took control of large parts of villages and towns near the border with Turkey
Shelled: Syria's regime defied the Tuesday deadline to pull out troops from cities, such as Homs, left, and Al Qasseer city, right, that was set in the deal brokered by Annan and launched fresh attacks on rebellious areas
Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Russia's refusal to support constructive action by the U.N. Security Council on the crisis in Syria is keeping its President Bashar al-Assad in power.
Clinton said when foreign ministers of the G-8 meet in Washington on Wednesday, the U.S. would again try to persuade Russia, a key Syrian ally, to support action that would at least allow humanitarian access.
Clinton warned Tuesday night that the danger was rising of regional conflict and civil war flaring from the violence in Syria.
Killed: Ali Shaaban, a Lebanese cameraman, who was killed by Syrian soldiers while on the Lebanon side of the border
Pain: Mourners carry the coffin of Ali Shaaban in front of his workplace, Al-Jadeed TV in Beirut, today
Tears: Grief for Ali Shaaban is shared by a colleague, left, and a relative at his funeral this morning
She said Russia's 'refusal to join us in some kind of constructive action is keeping Assad in power, well-armed, able to ignore the demands of his own people, the region and the world.'
China also weighed into the crisis today, reiterating calls for all sides in Syria to respect a ceasefire as government forces pressed home a sustained assault on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, ignoring an international peace plan.
'A political solution to the Syrian issue has reached a critical stage, but violence within Syria continues and civilian casualties are rising. China expresses its deep worries,' Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters at a daily press briefing.
Peace envoy Kofi Annan appealed to the U.N. Security Council to use its leverage to prevent the collapse of his efforts to halt 13 months of conflict and said Assad must make a 'fundamental change of course' and adhere to a ceasefire due to begin on Thursday.
Yesterday, Hezbollah demanded punishment for the killers of Al-Jadeed TV cameraman Ali Shaaban slain by Syrian gunfire near the border with Syria.
Shaaban, 30, was killed on Monday when Syrian troops opened fire on the car he was traveling in with two Al-Jadeed colleagues, reporter Hussein Khreiss and cameraman Abed al-Azim Khayya in the northern area of Wadi Khaled, near the border with Syria.
|Annan: Iran can be part of Syria 'solution'|
UN envoy welcomes Iranian backing for peace efforts, but Tehran says Syrian government needs time to implement reforms.
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2012 10:29
Annan's peace plan is calling for all parties to cease violence [AFP]
|Kofi Annan, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy on Syria, has welcomed Iranian support for his efforts to secure peace in the country, telling Tehran that it can be "part of the solution".|
Annan was speaking in Tehran on Wednesday following talks with Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister.
But while endorsing Annan's peace plan, which calls for a ceasefire by Thursday, Salehi said Syria's government needed to be given time to implement reforms.
Tehran is considered a key regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who faces growing international pressure over the crackdown by security forces that has seen cities shelled and thousands of people killed.
Annan stressed again the urgency of finding a way to end the killing and to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need, before getting all parties to the table.
"The political process must be Syrian-led and respect the aspirations of the Syrian people," Annan said. "What is important is that governments in the region and beyond work with Syria to resolve the crisis.
Regarding a ceasefire agreement which requires Syrian government forces to halt operations by April 12, Annan said he had received assurances that the deadline would be honoured.
"If everyone respects it I think by six in the morning on Thursday we shall see improved conditions on the ground," Annan said.
Answering a question whether he supported calls by some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to arm the Syrian opposition, Annan said "any further militarisation will be disastrous".
Salehi offered qualified Iranian support for Annan's efforts.
"We believe the people of Syria, like other countries, have the right to enjoy all the rights enjoyed by other world nations, such as freedom of political parties, freedom of elections, a constitution that encompasses all the wishes of a nation," he said.
"At the same time, we have announced that we oppose interference in the affairs of all countries, including Syria. The government of Bashar al-Assad has promised change to meet the demands of the people... and in fact the opportunity must be given to the Syrian government."
Annan's peace plan, presented last month, calls on the Syrian government to withdraw troops from towns and end the use of heavy weaponry.