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Annan set to brief UN amid reports of new massacre in Syria
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ‘shabiha’ militiamen armed with guns and knives carried out the attack after regular troops had shelled the area.
Activists called for an immediate investigation. The Syrian government blamed a terrorist group for the violence.
Meanwhile, diplomats say U.N.-Arab League mediator Annan is preparing to present the Security Council with a new proposal to rescue his failing peace plan for Syria.
They said Annan’s new plan would establish a “contact group” for Syria that would include the five permanent members of the Security Council and key regional players with influence on Damascus or the opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran. The group would attempt to map out a “political transition” leading to President Bashar al-Assad’s departure and the holding of free elections.
Annan is scheduled to meet Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The top U.S. diplomat arrived in Istanbul late Wednesday to co-chair a meeting on Syria with her Western and Arab colleagues.
A senior U.S. State Department official said after the meeting that Clinton stated the need for the international community to be united in understanding what needs to happen in order to foster a political transition in Syria without leaving Assad in power.
Clinton said there needs to be greater pressure on Assad’s government and its supporters, adding that the possibility of invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter – which could authorize the use of force – remains on the table “at an appropriate time.” She also said the international community must improve coordination among those countries providing direct assistance to the Syrian opposition.
U.S. officials said special envoy for Syria Fred Hoff will go to Moscow Thursday, and France will host a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris on July 6, which Secretary Clinton is expected to attend. Turkey will also host a meeting in mid-June with the opposition and relevant governments.
Senior U.S. officials warned Syria and its backers that tougher international action against Assad’s government could follow unless Damascus demonstrates “meaningful compliance” with U.N. efforts to end the violence.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday the administration and its allies could soon tighten sanctions against the Syrian government and its leaders. He spoke to representatives from 55 countries gathered in Washington to discuss increasing pressure on Assad and his top officials.
“Strong sanctions, effectively implemented, aggressively enforced, can help deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it needs to sustain itself and to continue its repression of the Syrian people,” he said. “Strong sanctions make clear to the Syrian business community and other supporters of the regime, their future is bleak so long as the Assad regime remains in power.”
Geithner said the United States hopes “all responsible nations” will soon join in taking “appropriate economic sanctions” against Assad’s government.