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Syria Meeting Called by Annan as Clinton Endorses Session

Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy on Syria, called a conference of foreign ministers for June 30 in Geneva, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed the event as a potential “turning point.”

Annan said today that he will seek to persuade major powers and neighboring states to support a political transition to end the Syrian conflict, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives, according to human rights groups.

“When I spoke to him yesterday I conveyed our support for his plan,” Clinton told reporters today in Helsinki, the Finnish capital. “If we can meet on the basis of that road map, with everyone agreeing before we arrive in Geneva that this will be the document that we’re endorsing by our presence, then I think a meeting makes a lot of sense and we support it.”

Clinton has agreed to participate in the Geneva conference, according to State Department official Philippe Reines.

Annan’s new plan calls for a unity government in Syria composed of members of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as well as the opposition seeking his ouster, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified discussing diplomatic communications. The transition would be followed by adoption of a constitution and then elections, the official said.

The U.S. had balked at Russia’s insistence that Iran participate in the Geneva conference, citing that nation’s support for Assad’s regime. Iran was left off the invitation list issued today by Annan, as was Saudi Arabia, which Russia said has funneled support to the Syrian opposition.

‘Syrian-Led’ Transition

Annan said he is inviting the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. -- plus representatives of the European Union and the Arab League, according to an e-mailed statement from his office.

The Syria action group should “agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people; and agree on actions that will make these objectives a reality on the ground,” Annan said in his statement.

Annan proposed the conference in Geneva after a monitoring mission he led was suspended in the face of continued warfare. That has put at risk the future of the mission, which is up for renewal July 20.

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