Annan frustrated over Syria
Peace envoy Kofi Annan said today he was "frustrated and impatient" a week after a massacre in Syria of 108 people shocked the world, and there were signs Russia might be moving closer to the West's position on tackling the crisis.
President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia, which has a base in Syria and supplies it with weapons, was providing the government with the means to crush rebels, brushing off US comments that its latest shipment to Syria was "reprehensible".
Mr Putin, speaking after talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and before a meeting with French president Francois Holland, restated that Moscow does not back any side in Syria and said patience was needed to achieve a political solution.
World powers increasingly fear that Syria, where more than 10,000 people have been killed in a 15-month uprising against president Bashar al-Assad, will slide into an all-out civil war that could also trigger regional conflict.
"I think perhaps I am more frustrated than most of you because I am in the thick of this," Mr Annan told reporters after talks in Beirut with Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati.
"I want to see things move faster."
Syrian rebels, who agreed to Mr Annan's April 12 truce plan, have urged him to declare the plan dead, freeing them from a commitment that both sides have repeatedly violated.
Damascus says it wants Mr Annan's plan to succeed in ending the violence so the crisis can be resolved through political talks.
Although refusing to declare the ceasefire a failure, Mr Annan welcomed any further steps from the UN security council.
"If there are other options on the table, I will say 'bravo' and support them," he said.
Outrage at last Friday's mass killings in Houla, documented by UN observers, prompted a host of Western countries to expel Syria's senior diplomats, and to press Russia and China to allow tougher action by the UN security council.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in Istanbul that the 300 observers were not in Syria "to passively bear witness to the slaughter of innocent citizens".
"We are there to help bring about the ceasefire. We are there to record violations of human rights and also violations of the Annan peace plan," he said.
China and Russia back Annan's plan, the only broadly accepted initiative to halt the bloodletting in Syria, and reject any intervention or UN-backed sanctions.
The 193-nation UN general assembly is planning to meet next week to discuss the crisis in Syria and the massacre in Houla.
Mr Annan and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay are likely to address the assembly yesterday, UN diplomats said.
Mr Annan will also speak to the 15-nation UN security council that day about the lack of progress implementing his peace plan.
It was not clear if the assembly planned to pass a resolution or declaration. Its decisions are not legally binding but its inclusiveness means it could send a strong signal.
Dr Merkel and Mr Hollande were expected to try to persuade Mr Putin that the West is not challenging Russian strategic interests.
The West is averse to military intervention, though Mr Hollande said that could change if the UN security council backed it - only possible if Russia and China do not veto it.
US ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said her hope was that Russia was "on the cusp of joining with us to use the leverage we have together to make sure that this conflict does not spiral out of control".