Envoy Annan warns against more force in Syria

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 08, 2012 7:25 AM
Envoy Annan warns against more force in Syria

CAIRO (Reuters) - Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, said on Thursday any further militarization of the crisis there would only make the situation worse, apparently rejecting any foreign intervention against President Bashar al-Asaad's government.

Annan was speaking after talks with League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, who for his part said no one wanted a repeat of the Libya scenario in which NATO air strikes boosted the rebellion that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"I hope no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation. I believe any further militarization will make the situation worse," said Annan, who travels to Syria on Saturday.

"We have to be careful that we don't introduce a medicine that is worse than the disease. We don't have to go very far in the region to find an example of what I am talking about," he said at the League headquarters in Cairo.

He did not name the example, although he was secretary-general of the United Nations when U.S.-led troops invaded Iraq, Syria's neighbor, in 2003.

Elaraby asked: "Who wants military action? The (Syrian) opposition but not all of them.

The Arab League chief also played down comments by a senior U.S. Republican politician, Senator John McCain, who has backed military action in Syria.

"It's an election year," Elaraby said when asked about such comments.

"At present I don't think anyone is considering the military option," Elaraby added after the meeting with Annan.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is committed to diplomatic efforts.

Elaraby told reporters that no one saw a repeat of Libya, when the League's call for a no-fly zone led to a U.N. Security Council resolution and then NATO air strikes.

Annan said: "The Syrian people need help, they are in a desperate situation and we should press hard and continue the diplomatic efforts working collectively to stop this killing."

"And we also have to be coldly realistic when we put proposals on the table to understand that it can be carried through and it will yield the right results. Otherwise we raise false hopes and create even more problems."

An Arab League initiative that called for Assad to step aside and which was the basis for a draft U.N. Security Council resolution was vetoed by Russia and China.

That Arab initiative has been cited in a U.N. General Assembly resolution but such resolutions are not binding.

"The (General Assembly) resolution also says the process should be Syrian led and Syrian owned," Annan said.

Some Arab states, mostly Saudi-led Gulf nations, have said they are prepared to arm rebels fighting Assad's rule if no political solution is found soon.

(Reporting by Edmund Blair; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Angus MacSwan)