Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Transition Plan Leaves Door Open for Syrian President U.N. Agreement Doesn't Oust Assad

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Transition Plan Leaves Door Open for Syrian President U.N. Agreement Doesn't Oust Assad

Article excerpt

GENEVA -- An international conference on Saturday accepted a U.N.- brokered peace plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government in Syria, but at Russia's insistence the compromise agreement left the door open to Syria's president being part of it.

The U.S. backed away from insisting that the plan should explicitly call for President Bashar Assad to have no role in a new Syrian government, hoping the concession would encourage Russia to put greater pressure on its longtime ally to end the violent crackdown that the opposition says has claimed more than 14,000 lives.

But even with Russia's most explicit statement of support yet for a political transition in Syria, it is far from certain that the plan will have any real effect in curbing the violence.

A key phrase in the agreement requires that the transitional governing body "shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent," effectively giving the present government and the opposition veto power over each other.

Syrian opposition figures immediately rejected any notion of sharing in a transition with Mr. Assad, though the agreement also requires security force chiefs and services to have the confidence of the people. Mr. Assad's government had no immediate reaction, but he has repeatedly said his government has a responsibility to eliminate terrorists and will not accept any non-Syrian model of governance.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton insisted Saturday that Mr. Assad would still have to go, saying it is now "incumbent on Russia and China to show Assad the writing on the wall" and help force his departure. There is a credible alternative to the Assad regime. What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power."

Kofi Annan was appointed the special envoy in February, and in March he submitted a six-point peace plan that he said the Assad regime accepted. It led to the April 12 cease-fire agreement that failed to hold. …

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