Assad's fate is unclear in world powers' Syria plan
World powers struck an agreement that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the conflict there but they remained at odds over what part President Bashar al-Assad might play in the process.
Peace envoy Kofi Annan said after the talks in Geneva yesterday the government should include members of Dr Assad's administration and the Syrian opposition and that it should arrange free elections."Time is running out. The conflict must be resolved through peaceful dialogue and negotiations," Mr Annan told reporters.
The talks had been billed as a last-ditch effort to halt the worsening violence in Syria but hit obstacles as Russia, Dr Assad's most powerful ally, opposed Western and Arab insistence that he must quit the scene.
The final communique said the transitional government should be formed "on the basis of mutual consent".
In a victory for Russia, it omitted text in a previous draft which explicitly said the plan would exclude from government anyone whose participation would undermine the transition's credibility and jeopardise stability and reconciliation.
After the meeting, the United States and Russia contradicted each other over what that meant for Dr Assad, who has ruled Syria for 11 years since succeeding his father Hafez and has been condemned internationally for the ferocity of his crackdown on the uprising against him.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was "delighted" with the result. The key point was that the deal did not attempt to impose a process on Syria, he said
It did not imply at all that Dr Assad should step down as there were no preconditions excluding any group from the proposed national unity government, Mr Lavrov said.
But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it sent a clear message to Dr Assad that he must quit.
"Assad will still have to go," Ms Clinton told reporters. "What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power."
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said today the text implied Dr Assad would have to step down.
"The text says specifically that there will be a transitional government with all powers ... it won't be Bashar
al-Assad because it will be people that are agreed to by mutual consent.The opposition will never agree to him, so it signals implicitly that Assad must go and that he is finished," Mr Fabius told television station TF1.
Mr Annan convened the meeting at the United Nations complex on the shores of Lake Geneva to salvage a peace plan that has largely been ignored by the Assad government. He said at the opening that the conflict was in danger of growing into a regional and international crisis.
At its conclusion, the Nobel peace laureate fielded a question on whether people with blood on their hands could be part of a transitional government by saying: