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International envoy Kofi Annan has left Syria without securing any major steps from the Syrian government to implement his faltering peace plan for the country.

Speaking by phone from Damascus, U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh says that Annan flew out of Syria on Wednesday morning local time.

The U.N.-Arab League envoy met with President Bashar al-Assad the previous day and later told reporters that he appealed to the Syrian leader for “bold steps” to create momentum for the peace plan “now, not tomorrow.” Ghosheh said she was not aware of any such steps being taken.

Annan’s plan called on the Syrian government to withdraw heavy weapons from civilian areas and abide by a truce with rebels last month, but attacks by both sides have continued.

Syrian state news agency SANA says Assad told Annan that the success of the peace plan depends on stopping the smuggling of weapons to armed terrorists whom Damascus blames for the 15-month uprising. SANA says Assad called for countries who finance, arm and harbor such terrorists to commit to the peace initiative.

In his Tuesday news conference, Annan urged the Syrian government and “all government-backed militias” to stop all military operations and show maximum restraint.

In New York, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there are “strong suspicions” that pro-Assad gunmen known as shabiha executed civilians as part of a massacre of more than 100 residents of the central town of Houla last Friday. He said the killing of other Houla residents by artillery and tank fire places responsibility for the incident “ever so clearly” on the Syrian government. Syrian officials deny any role in the massacre.

Japan said Wednesday it has joined its Western allies in announcing the expulsion of Syrian diplomats in protest at the massacre. Nine Western nations announced similar expulsions on Tuesday, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

In another development, Russia and China restated their opposition to any military intervention in Syria, a day after French President Francois Hollande said he does not rule out such action if the U.N. Security Council approves it.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency that Moscow will veto any Council resolution that authorizes foreign military interference in Syria, a longtime Russian ally. He also said it is “premature” for the Council to consider any new measures to deal with the Syrian crisis.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China opposes regime change by force in Syria. He also said he is not aware of any Chinese move to expel or disrupt the work of Syrian diplomats in the country

VOA

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