Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

December 27, 2012

UN envoy, Moscow call for revival of Syria plan

BEIRUT (AP) — Russia and the U.N envoy for Syria both said Thursday that they want to revive a long-shelved peace initiative that would call for a transitional government to run the country until elections can be held.

But it was unclear whether Lakhdar Brahimi's proposals would block top members of President Bashar Assad's regime from participating, an omission which helped doom the plan this summer. Russia said it not will endorse plans that call for Assad's ouster.

Much has changed in Syria in the past half-year. Rebels have seized more territory and a number of military installations in the country's north and are expanding their control in suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

This makes it increasingly unlikely that they will accept any plan that does not bar most members of Assad's regime from a future government.

The original Geneva plan called for the establishment of a national unity government with full executive powers that could include members of Assad's government, the opposition and other groups. It was to oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.

Because of Russian objections, that plan did not call specifically for Assad's ouster, nor did it ban him from participation in the new government — making it a non-starter with the opposition.

"The Syrian people seek genuine change," Brahimi told reporters in Damascus, adding that the transitional period "must not lead to the collapse of the state or the state's institutions."

Brahimi said that original plan could undergo some amendments, but did not specify what those could be. Nor did he specify how his plan would treat Assad. He said it still needed to be determined whether the called-for elections would be for president or parliament.

The Syrian government did not immediately comment on Brahimi's suggestion.

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