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Annan 'Has Questions' About Syria Response To Peace Plan

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right) met with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in Damascus on March 10.
International mediator Kofi Annan on has confirmed he has received a response from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime after making "concrete" proposals to Damascus about bringing an end to the country's crisis.

Annan, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy on Syria, said through a spokesman that he "has questions and is seeking answers" to Assad's response.

Annan is expected on March 16 to brief the UN Security Council, which is debating a U.S.-backed draft resolution supporting Annan's mission and calling for an end to violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on March 14 criticized Assad for a "big delay" in reforms.

Lavrov accused Assad of "inertia" and said Moscow's policy on Syria was not aimed at defending Assad's regime.

But Lavrov offered little hint of a policy shift on Syria.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said on March 14 that it had closed its embassy in Syria and withdrawn all diplomats and staff.

The Saudi Press Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry statement saying the decision was made "in light of the current events in Syria."

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly pressed for world action against Damascus and called for opposition fighters to be given weapons.

The UN says at least 8,000 people -- most of them civilians -- have been killed since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

With AP, AFP, Reuters, and RFE/RL reporting