Top U.S. and Russian diplomats have failed to reach an agreement on how to deal with the rising violence across Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov Friday in St. Petersburg, ahead of an international conference on the Syrian crisis. U.S. officials said the two failed to reach a consensus.
World and regional powers plan to gather in Geneva for a Saturday meeting called by international peace envoy Kofi Annan, who wants them to agree on new ideas for dealing with the Syrian conflict.
Lavrov has said any solution to the crisis must be decided by Syrians themselves. He said Russia, a longtime ally of the Assad government, will not support external meddling. U.S. officials are adamant that the plan will not allow Mr. Assad to remain in power.
Annan said in The Washington Post that the future of Syria "must include" a unity government that could have members of the present government, the opposition and other groups. But he warned the government would need to exclude members "whose continued presence" would "undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability." He did not specifically name President Bashar al-Assad.
Throughout the Syrian crisis, Russia has refused to call for Mr. Assad to relinquish power.
Syrian opposition groups say they will not accept any political transition plan that lacks an explicit call for Mr. Assad to step down.
Syrian forces pounded the Damascus suburb of Douma with artillery Friday, after one of the deadliest days since the uprising began last March. Syrian rights activists say violence across the country killed at least 180 people Thursday.
The United States said Thursday escalating violence in and around Damascus is a result of Mr. Assad assaulting the Syrian people and is a sign that he is losing control of the capital.
Clinton said in Latvia Thursday that any solution must comply with international standards on human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law and equal opportunity for all Syrian people. She said the Annan framework lays out how to arrive at that.
Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.