World Bulletin / News Desk
Russia proposed changes on Thursday to international mediator Kofi Annan's plan for a national unity government in Syria, despite initially supporting it, but the United States, Britain and France rejected the amendments, Western diplomats said.
The suggested changes are related to Moscow's refusal to support the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
Russia and the other permanent U.N. Security Council members told Annan this week they support a transitional Cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would "exclude ... those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation," according to Annan's proposal.
Diplomats told Reuters that Annan's idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Assad, though the proposal does not explicitly say the Syrian president could not serve in a national unity government.
Annan's proposal for a political transition aimed at ending the 16-month conflict in Syria is one of the main issues that Russia, the other four permanent Security Council members and key players in the Middle East planned to discuss at a high-level meeting in Geneva on Saturday.
Although Russia signaled to Annan this week that his plan was acceptable to Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reversed course on Thursday, diplomats said. He publicly complained on the Foreign Ministry's Twitter feed about the way details of Annan's proposal were leaked to the media.
"Any leaks to press from draft report on Annan plan are evidence of unscrupulous diplomatic practices," Lavrov said.
Diplomats said the Russians have now demanded that Annan remove from his proposal the language about excluding people from a Syrian national unity government, an amendment they said was unacceptable.
Annan and the Western delegations were encouraging Moscow to drop the demand, envoys said, adding that the issue would certainly come up when Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet in Russia on Friday.
One diplomat said the Russians were now "walking back" from their earlier for support for Annan's proposal. They said the United States, Britain and France had waited until Russia informed Annan of its acceptance of his political transition proposal before agreeing to go to Geneva to discuss it.
A senior Western diplomat said the United States, Britain and France were getting "mixed messages from Russia, which could put the Geneva meeting in doubt."
The language about excluding certain people is the whole point of Annan's political transition plan, which cannot be credible if it leaves Assad in power, the envoys said.
"Without that sentence about exclusions, there's no transition plan," said one diplomat.
Moscow has refused to abandon Assad, a staunch Russian ally and major purchaser of Russian weapons.
Another amendment suggested by Russia, which Western diplomats said was equally unacceptable, was to include a call on the Syrian government and the opposition to stop fighting simultaneously.
"Obviously the government has to stop fighting first," a Western diplomat said.
Russia's U.N. mission was not immediately available for a response.
Annan had made preliminary acceptance of his guidelines for a political transition for Syria a condition for organizing Saturday's meeting in Geneva. The meeting is to include the Turkey, United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. Iran and Saudi Arabia were not invited.
Senior diplomats from the countries attending the meeting will gather in Geneva on Friday to try to prevent any collapse of Saturday's ministerial-level talks.
Russia has repeatedly said it supports Annan's idea of creating a "contact group" of powerful nations and regional players with influence on the Syrian government or the opposition to push for an end to the violence in Syria.
Moscow has also said it is not insisting that Assad must remain in power at all costs, but that any decision on whether or not he should step down should come from the Syrian people, not from outside pressure or military intervention, as happened last year in Libya.
The United States, Britain and France have said that Assad is responsible for the violence, which the United Nations estimates has killed at least 10,000 people, is no longer fit to govern. Russia and China, however, reject what they describe as Western calls for "regime change."
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said "We are forced to react to such a development of the situation."
“Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor those who perished in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century” Obama said.
Israeli media reports said that Israel would impose economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Lieberman, who has helped to mastermind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of closer relations with Russia, made no apology for the government's fence-sitting on Ukraine
Mariupol, an industrial port city of nearly half a million people, is one of a series of flashpoints across eastern Ukraine
Wade's impending return has heightened tensions in one of Africa's most stable democracy
Women and children are among the group, some of whom suffer from poor health.
EU leaders consider the takeover as illegal and have asked the EU executive arm, the European Commission, to propose economic, trade and financial restrictions on Crimea for rapid implementation.
The Greens criticised the scale of Germany's defence equipment sales to Russia and urged Berlin to push for a European-wide embargo on arms sales to the country.
Preliminary results based on 82.6 percent of the vote from the 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 43.8 percent, followed by Ghani with 32.9 percent
The Asian Development Bank said around 733 million people in Asia-Pacific live on US$1.25 a day - the extreme poverty threshold.
Costa Rica condemned an alleged US campaign against Cuba communist regime being conducted from San Jose.
Sanogo charged to a more serious charge of conspiracy to murder which carries the death penalty in the West African nation
The violence in the central African state, the size of France, has mainly pitted Kiir's Dinka people against Machar's Nuer. Thousands have been killed and more than one million people uprooted from their homes.
It was not the first time a tourist with such a tattoo has run into trouble in Sri Lanka. In 2013, authorities denied entry to a British man for his tattoo of Buddha.
Several of Washington's key European allies support an investigation into the latest claims of chlorine gas use