Annan frustrated over Syria

International envoy Kofi Annan is "frustrated and impatient" after a massacre in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Picture: AFP

BEIRUT - International envoy Kofi Annan said on Friday he was "frustrated and impatient" a week after a massacre in Syria of 108 people shocked the world, but Russia said his peace plan was still the best hope for Syria.

Speaking after separate talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, President Vladimir Putin urged countries to continue to back Annan's peace initiative as the best way to avoid full civil war.

"Mr. Annan is a very experienced and respectable person and we must do everything for his mission to succeed. I think it is counterproductive to announce his mission as a failure in advance," Putin told a news conference in Paris.

"Sanctions don't always work. The main thing we need to do is to prevent the situation from developing under the worst scenario and not let a civil war take place."

Damascus says it wants Annan's plan to succeed so the crisis can be resolved through political talks.

But Syrian rebels, who agreed to Annan's April 12 truce plan, have urged him to declare the plan dead, freeing them from a commitment that both sides have repeatedly violated.

The plan calls for the government to pull heavy weapons back from towns and cities, after which both sides are to end violence and begin a dialogue, but it has stalled at the first hurdle.

Although refusing to declare the ceasefire a failure, Annan welcomed any further steps from the U.N. Security Council.

"If there are other options on the table, I will say 'bravo' and support them," Annan told reporters after talks in Beirut with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

"SANCTIONS ESSENTIAL"

Hollande said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had disqualified itself from ruling Syria.

"No solution to this crisis is possible without the departure of Bashar al-Assad," he said, standing next to Putin. "I believe that more sanctions are an essential part of a political solution."

Outrage at last Friday's mass killings in Houla, documented by U.N. observers, prompted a host of Western countries to expel Syria's senior diplomats, and to press Russia and China to drop their vetoes and allow tougher U.N. Security Council action.

China and Russia back Annan's plan, the only broadly accepted initiative to halt the bloodletting in Syria, and reject any intervention, U.N.-backed sanctions, or proposal.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly is planning to meet next week to discuss the crisis in Syria and the massacre in Houla. Ban, Annan and U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay are likely to address the assembly on Thursday, U.N. diplomats said.

Annan will also speak to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council that day about the lack of progress implementing his peace plan.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby urged the Council to "move quickly to end all acts of violence taking place in Syria, and to take the necessary measures to protect Syrian civilians", according to a letter leaked to media.

That proposal is similar to language the Council used last year to authorise military intervention in Libya, which Russia did not veto but has criticised ever since. Russia has vowed to prevent Syria from becoming another Libya, where it says NATO airstrikes directly supported rebels and led to "regime change".