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Syrian opposition rejects UN transition plan

By Zeina Karam

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 1 2012 8:52 a.m. MDT

Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for Syria speaks during a news conference following the Action Group on Syria meeting in the Palace of Nations, Saturday, June 30, 2012, at the United Nations' Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Martial Trezzini, Keystone, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BEIRUT — Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected a U.N.-brokered peace plan for a political transition in Syria, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with President Bashar Assad or members of his "murderous" regime.

The disappointed reaction underlined the seemingly intractable nature of the Syrian conflict, which this week saw some of the bloodiest violence since the start of the uprising against Assad's regime in March 2011.

Activists said dozens of people were killed and wounded in a powerful explosion Saturday evening that hit a funeral procession in a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus. Details of the blast in Zamalka remain murky, but amateur videos showed gruesome images of bodies, some with their limbs torn, lying on the ground as people walked about dazed in a cloud of smoke.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 30 people were killed, while the Local Coordination Committees activist network said it had documented the names of 40 of the dead and that residents were unable to identify an unknown number of remaining bodies.

Activists blamed government forces for the explosion, which they said was likely the result of a car bomb detonated near a mosque where the funeral of an activist killed earlier by regime gunmen was being held.

The violence has added urgency to diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria.

An international conference in Geneva on Saturday accepted U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan's plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government in Syria, but at Russia's insistence the compromise agreement left the door open to Syria's president being part of the interim administration.

The U.S. backed away from insisting that the plan should explicitly call for Assad to have no role in a new Syrian government, hoping the concession would encourage Russia to put greater pressure on its longtime ally to end the violent crackdown that the opposition says has claimed more than 14,000 lives.

Syrian opposition figures rejected any notion of sharing in a transition with Assad.

"Every day I ask myself, do they not see how the Syrian people are being slaughtered?" veteran Syrian opposition figure Haitham Maleh asked. "It is a catastrophe, the country has been destroyed, and they want us then to sit with the killer?"

Maleh described the agreement reached in Geneva as a waste of time and of "no value on the ground."

"The Syrian people are the ones who will decide the battle on the ground, not those sitting in Geneva or New York or anywhere else," he said by telephone from Cairo, where opposition groups are to meet Monday.

Bassma Kodmani, a Paris-based spokesperson for Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said the agreement is "ambiguous" and lacks a mechanism or timetable for implementation.

"We cannot say that there is any positive outcome today," she said. "The Syrians will not accept engaging in any political track while the killing continues."

There was no reaction from the Syrian regime to the Annan plan, but Assad has repeatedly said his government has a responsibility to eliminate terrorists and will not accept any non-Syrian model of governance.

State-run newspaper Al-Thawra said Sunday "the Syrians are the ones who can determine their future."

The U.N. plan calls for establishing a transitional government of national unity, with full executive powers, that could include members of Assad's government and the opposition and other groups. It would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted on Saturday that Assad would still have to go, saying it is now "incumbent on Russia and China to show Assad the writing on the wall" and help force his departure."

"There is a credible alternative to the Assad regime," she said. "What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power."

Annan was appointed the special envoy in February, and in March he submitted a six-point peace plan that he said the Assad regime accepted. It led to the April 12 ceasefire that failed to hold. U.N. observers sent to monitor the ceasefire suspended their patrols in Syria on June 16 due to a spike in violence and have been confined to their hotels since.

Moscow had refused to back a provision that would call for Assad to step aside, insisting that outsiders cannot order a political solution for Syria and accusing the West of ignoring the darker side of the Syrian opposition. The opposition has made clear it would not take part in a government in which Assad still held power.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined that the plan does not require Assad's ouster, saying there is "no attempt in the document to impose on the Syrian people any type of transitional process."

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