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UN envoy Kofi Annan to meet Assad

Kofi Annan, the new Syria envoy, will meet Syrian president Bashar Assad in Damascus on Saturday morning, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has said.

The UN chief told a group of reporters that Mr Annan's priority is to stop all violence by government forces and opposition fighters immediately - if not simultaneously, then first by government troops, followed by the opposition.

Mr Ban said a ceasefire should be quickly followed by inclusive political talks to resolve the year-long conflict.

Mr Annan, the former UN secretary-general, was appointed last month as the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League.

Mr Ban said he held a half-hour teleconference with Mr Annan and Arab League secretary-general Nabil Elaraby.

Diplomats say a ceasefire could prove difficult because opposition leaders have already rejected calls for dialogue, saying only more military aid can stop Assad's deadly crackdown.

The Syrian conflict is now one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring, with the UN saying more than 7,500 people have been killed. Activists put the number at more than 8,000.

"I'm encouraged by very close co-ordination between me, my office, Kofi Annan and Elaraby," Mr Ban said. "Basically all three of us share (the) same concerns and same priorities in approaches."

While in Damascus, Mr Ban said Mr Annan also plans to meet other government officials and representatives of civil society and the humanitarian community.

Mr Annan plans to leave Damascus on Sunday and will then visit some key countries in the region to gain stronger support for his mission, Mr Ban said.


From Belfast Telegraph