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Ousting Syria's Assad: Can UN get Russia on board?

UN envoy on Syria Kofi Annan unveiled a new plan to get all five permanent Security Council members to back the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. Russia has begun to hint that it may consider it.

By Staff writer / June 7, 2012

UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan addresses the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday, during a meeting on the situation in Syria.

Allison Joyce/Reuters

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Washington

Getting Russia to throw in the towel on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been the key to halting Syria’s violence and avoiding a costly and unpredictable civil war ever since Syria descended into conflict more than 15 months ago, many regional experts say.

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On Thursday the United Nations envoy on Syria and former Secretary General Kofi Annan unveiled to the UN Security Council a proposal to overcome the stumbling block of Russian support for President Assad by putting all five permanent Security Council members at the head of a plan to replace an exiled Assad with newly elected leaders and a new Syrian constitution.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and France, which have favored Assad’s ouster, and Russia and China, which have not, would finally be on the same page on Syria at the head of a “contact group” of these world powers and regional countries.

But Russia's willingness to go along with Mr. Annan's plan, analysts say, depends on whether or not it believes that its interests in Syria, its last toehold in the Middle East, can be preserved despite Assad’s departure.

Annan discussed his plan at a closed-door session of the Security Council just hours after he told the UN General Assembly that the alternative to the world community very shortly coming together on a peace plan was “all-out civil war.”

"If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence, and even all-out civil war," Annan told the General Assembly. "All Syrians will lose."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also told the General Assembly that UN monitors in Syria were shot at as they tried to make their way to a village reported to have suffered the most recent in a string of massacres Wednesday. Mr. Ban said none of the monitors was injured, but he said they were also unable to reach their destination, a rural village called Mazraat al-Qubair.

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