U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has left Damascus without securing a deal to end Syria's nearly yearlong conflict. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad's troops continued to pound opposition areas, clashing with rebels throughout the country.
The former U.N. secretary-general said Sunday he left several proposals with Syrian officials and that he remains "optimistic" about the possibility of a resolution after a second round of talks with Mr. Assad. But he said ending the violence will be "tough."
Annan said he called for an immediate halt to the killings and that he urged the Syrian government to "embrace change and reform" as part of a political solution to its deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising. He appealed to Mr. Assad to heed an old African proverb that says: "You cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail."
Syrian state media said Mr. Assad told Annan that a political solution is impossible as long as "terrorist groups" threaten the country. Identical comments were reported after the two met Saturday.
Syria's main exiled opposition group also rejected talks with the government. The Syrian National Council said negotiations can never take place between a "victim and torturer," and it demanded that Mr. Assad and his aides step down before a dialogue can begin.
Annan flew to Qatar Sunday to meet that country's emir, a leading critic of the Syrian government who has called for arming the rebels.
As their talks took place in Damascus, Syria's military continued an offensive on rebel strongholds in the north. Activists reported that several areas were attacked, including in and around Idlib, Hama and Homs, as well as Daraa in the south.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says fighting Sunday killed at least 25 civilians and five soldiers. Activists said at least 90 people were killed in nationwide unrest a day earlier, many of them in Idlib.
Also Sunday, Syria's state news agency said gunmen killed local boxing champion Gheyath Tayfour in the northern city of Aleppo. Opposition fighters associated with the rebel Free Syrian Army have claimed responsibility for some of the assassinations that have become more frequent in the city, including those of prominent businessmen they say support Mr. Assad.
International rifts have paralyzed action on Syria. Russia and China blocked two U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Syrian crisis in recent months, saying they were biased against the Assad government.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in New York Monday when the Security Council holds a special meeting on Arab revolts, with Syria likely to be in focus. Washington is pressing the Council to adopt a resolution calling on Syria to let aid workers reach civilians affected by the government crackdown.
The United Nations says Mr. Assad's forces have killed more than 7,500 people since the crackdown on protesters and insurgents began last year. Authorities say rebels have killed 2,000 soldiers during that time.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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