'Time running out,' as new Syrian massacre revealed
Kofi Annan gave warning yesterday that his peace plan for Syria would not be available "forever" after the massacre of another 12 people was disclosed.
Mr Annan, a former UN secretary-general, has devised a six-point plan that commands overwhelming international support and the verbal commitment of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian rebels.
Yet, Mr Annan candidly admitted that the United Nations Security Council might choose to call off his efforts, adding that he was "more frustrated" than anyone by the failure to implement his plan.
A pro-regime militia killed 12 factory workers on Thursday after forcing them off a bus in the western village of Qusair, according to opposition activists. Video footage released by Mr Assad's opponents showed the disfigured bodies of 12 people who appear to have been shot in the head or stomach at close range.
This bloodshed followed the deaths of at least 108 people, 49 of them children, in the massacre in Houla last Friday.
The opposition blamed both incidents on the "al-Shabiha", a pro-regime militia recruited exclusively from Mr Assad's minority Alawite sect.
The regime accused the rebels of carrying out the Houla killings, allegedly with the aim of provoking foreign military intervention.
The latest report of a massacre has not yet been independently verified. But the UN has deployed 290 observers in the country to monitor compliance with a ceasefire required under Mr Annan's plan.
The UN Human Rights Council met in emergency session in Geneva to discuss the situation in Syria. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Houla massacre "may amount to crimes against humanity".
She added that all sides in the conflict should support the Annan plan "otherwise, the situation in Syria might descend into a full-fledged conflict and the future of the country, as well as the region as a whole, could be in grave danger".
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, yesterday insisted that a political solution in Syria was still possible and rejected assertions that Moscow was supporting Mr Assad.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said: "The continued supply of arms from Russia has raised serious concerns."
Speaking in Beirut, Mr Annan called for "bold action" by "President Assad and the Syrian government to put real energy into the implementation of the six-point plan".
He added: "This is not something that can go on forever. It is essential that he (Mr Assad) shows determination and sends a signal for his people and international community that he is determined to implement the plan and move ahead in terms of peace."
Mr Annan, who met the Syrian president on Monday, said: "I know we are all impatient; we are all frustrated by the violence, by the killings. So am I. I think I am probably more frustrated than any of you because I am in the thick of things."
Mr Annan declined to say what might lead him to declare the failure of his plan. But he made clear that the Security Council could decide to abandon his effort. (© Daily Telegraph, London)