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Annan Arrives In Iran After Syria Meetings

UN peace envoy Kofi Annan speaks to the media at a hotel after returning from a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on July 9.
United Nations-Arab League envoy on Syria Kofi Annan has arrived in Tehran following talks earlier in the day with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Assad in Damascus on July 9, Annan didn't disclose details,. But he maintained that he also intends to discuss the "approach" with the armed opposition that has been fighting to end Assad's rule.

"We discussed the need to end the violence and ways and means of doing so," he said. "We agreed [on] an approach which we will also share -- which I will share with the armed opposition. I also stressed the importance of moving ahead with a political dialogue, which the president accepts."

Annan then traveled to Tehran, where he is expected to meet on July 10 with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Iran and Russia are the Assad regime's two major international allies. The two countries have declined to back Western calls for Assad to resign to allow a transitional government to take power.

However, a senior Russian official said on July 9 that Moscow will not sign new weapons contracts with Syria until the situation there calms down.

Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy chief of the Russian military and technical cooperation agency, told Russian news agencies on the sidelines of the Farnborough air show near London that Russia will continue with previously agreed exports, but will not sell new arms to Syria.

He also said Russia is not selling attack helicopters to Syria.

'Rocket-Bomb Democracy'

Also on July 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin again warned that Moscow stands opposed to foreign military intervention in Syria.

Putin said instead of using what he called a "rocket-bomb democracy" to topple Assad, the international community should urge the opposition and the government to negotiate and find a peaceful political solution.

Also on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks in Moscow with representatives of the Syrian opposition.

Lavrov said his goal was to unite the opposition and have them begin talks with the Syrian authorities.

"Russia is one of the few countries, if not the only country, actively engaged both with the government and with various opposition groups in Syria to ensure the implementation of the Annan plan," Lavrov said.

Kilo, who heads the Democratic Forum opposition group, said that he hopes Russia will play a positive role in "finding a peaceful solution to our crisis."

"I think it was an effective and productive dialogue," Kilo said. "As you know, Russia is very important for us; it is very important for finding a peaceful solution to our crisis, and I hope they will play a positive role in the future."

However, he also said that given the bloodshed in his home country, he saw little chance of a dialogue with Assad.

Interfax news agency reported that Abdul-Basset Sayda, the head of the key opposition Syrian National Council, was also expected in Moscow on July 10.

According to Syrian activists, upward of 15,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the antigovernment uprising begun in March 2011. The figures cannot be independently confirmed.

Speaking on July 8, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton maintained that Syrian opposition fighters have been growing more effective and the sooner the violence ends, the better the chances of sparing Syria's government from being potentially overrun by rebel forces.

"The future to me should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime," she said. "The days are numbered and the sooner there can be an end to the violence and a beginning of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there's a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous, not only to Syria but to the region."

Also speaking on July 8, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Assad "must understand that things cannot continue as they are."

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and RIA Novosti
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