Date: June 29 2012
RUSSIA has not signed up to Kofi Annan's plan for a transition of power in Syria, making a different proposal as officials head to Geneva for talks, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said.
Russia did not agree with the Annan approach and had put forward its own plan to be discussed at a conference tomorrow, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
But the Russian Foreign Secretary, Sergei Lavrov, said last night: ''Foreign powers must not dictate their solutions to the Syrians.''
Mr Lavrov was at a joint media briefing with Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem. International military intervention would have ''catastrophic consequences'', he said. The fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be decided by the Syrians themselves, Mr Lavrov said.
Foreign governments should pressure Syrians to halt the violence and get the opposition to support Mr Annan's plan, he said. Earlier, three UN diplomats said Russia had endorsed a detailed UN road map for a political transition in Syria, which suggested that Dr Assad had lost the support of a key ally.
Persuading Dr Assad to step aside and forming a transitional government to pave the way for elections will be at the core of tomorrow's conference of top diplomats organised by Mr Annan, the officials said.
The foreign ministers of the five permanent UN Security Council members - China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States - as well as Turkey, Qatar and Iraq will attend the meeting in Geneva.
Last night, two bombs exploded at an open car park near a court complex in the Syrian capital, Damascus, wounding at least three people and destroying 20 vehicles, state television reported.
Mr Annan this week gave the parties to the talks a few days to respond to recommendations titled ''On Guidelines and Principles of a Syrian-led transition''.
On Tuesday, the Russians accepted the paper in full, including language that spells out Dr Assad's departure, according to the three officials, who were all informed of the decision.
The Annan document says a transitional government may include members of Dr Assad's government and opposition and other groups, although not ''those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition''.
According to a US official who was briefed on Mr Annan's plan, representatives of both the regime and the opposition could veto proposed members of a national unity government.
The latest effort to end the 16-month battle between the Alawite-dominated Assad regime and a largely Sunni Muslim insurgency comes as Dr Assad said his country was in a state of war. It follows an attack on Syria's pro-government television station that killed seven journalists.
Russia had realised that Dr Assad was losing the battle to preserve his grip on power, the UN officials said, and now the government of President Vladimir Putin was seeking a leading role in paving a smooth exit for a long-time Soviet and Russian client and arms customer.
''When Assad went into total war footing, he lost the Russians,'' said George Lopez, a former UN sanctions investigator who is now at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana.
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