* Russia, West blame each other for Annan's departure
* Security Council seen as impotent on Syria crisis
* Military airfield could be used to reinforce Aleppo
By Louis Charbonneau and Hadeel Al Shalchi
UNITED NATIONS/ALEPPO, Syria, Aug 2 Former U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as international peace
envoy for Syria, frustrated by "finger-pointing" at the United
Nations while the armed rebellion against President Bashar
al-Assad becomes increasingly bloody.
As battles raged on Thursday in Syria's second city, Aleppo,
between rebel fighters and government forces using war planes
and artillery, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced in
New York that Annan had said he would go at the end of the
"Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the
selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and
prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of
assignments," Ban said. Talks were under way to find a
Annan's mission, centered on an April ceasefire that never
took hold, has looked irrelevant as fighting has intensified in
Damascus, Aleppo and elsewhere.
Annan blamed "finger-pointing and name-calling" at the U.N.
Security Council for his decision to quit but suggested his
successor may have better luck.
Russia, the United States, Britain and France began pointing
fingers at one another over who was responsible for Annan's
sudden announcement he would depart. One senior council diplomat
said it was now time to acknowledge the "utter irrelevance of an
impotent Security Council" on Syria.
Syria expressed regret that Annan was going.
Annan suggested that the continued arming of all sides in
the conflict and the Security Council deadlock had undermined
his ability to pursue a diplomatic solution.
"The increasing militarization on the ground and the clear
lack of unity in the Security Council, have fundamentally
changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my
role," Annan told reporters.
In an editorial published on the Financial Times' website,
Annan said Russia, China and Iran "must take concerted efforts
to persuade Syria's leadership to change course and embrace a
political transition" -- meaning the departure of Assad.
"It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave
office," Annan said.
Annan wrote that Western powers, the Saudis and Qatar must
start "pressing the opposition to embrace a fully inclusive
political process - that will include communities and
institutions currently associated with the government."
Ban's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, declined to comment on who
might replace Annan but said a decision could come soon.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a strong supporter of
Assad, said he regretted Annan's decision to step aside and
referred to him as a "brilliant diplomat."
Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, suggested to
reporters in New York that Western powers that had opposed
"reasonable and balanced proposals" in the Security Council had
undermined Annan's peace efforts from the start.
The White House pinned the blame squarely on Moscow and
Beijing, which together vetoed three resolutions intended to
increase the pressure on Assad, thereby undercutting Annan.
"Annan's resignation highlights the failure at the United
Nations Security Council of Russia and China to support
resolutions, meaningful resolutions, against Assad that would
have held Assad accountable," White House spokesman Jay Carney
told reporters aboard Air Force One.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed that view.
"We understand Annan's frustration that, due to vetoes in
the Security Council, the international community was unable to
give him the support that he needed and requested," Hague said
in a statement.
Hague reiterated that Annan's six-point peace plan for Syria
was still the best option for securing an end to the conflict.
French Ambassador Gerard Araud, Security Council president this
month, shared that view.
Washington, U.N. diplomats say, has been convinced that the
Security Council cannot play a meaningful role in the Syria
crisis since Russia and China first vetoed a Western- and
Arab-backed resolution in October. But it reluctantly supported
European efforts to try to get the council to take action.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice issued a statement that made no
mention of the United Nations playing a role in resolving the
"We will continue to work urgently with our partners in the
international community - including the over 100 countries in
the Friends of the Syrian People - to accelerate the transition,
provide support to the opposition, and meet the increasingly
grave humanitarian needs of the Syrian people," Rice said.
Council diplomats have said privately the United States and
Gulf Arab states have become increasingly frustrated in recent
weeks with what they saw as Annan's dogged commitment to
diplomacy at a time when they believe all avenues for dialogue
with Assad have been exhausted.
France's U.N. envoy, Araud, said the council appeared to be
"irreconcilably" deadlocked but that it would be dangerous for
countries to go outside the United Nations to resolve the Syria
But that is already happening. The United States, other
Western powers, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are increasing support
for the rebels, U.N. diplomats say, and are reconciling
themselves to the view that Syria's civil war will be long and
Separately, Araud said the U.N. observer mission would
likely "disappear" on Aug. 19, the day its recently renewed
BATTLE FOR ALEPPO RAGES
In Syria, the fight for Aleppo, the latest battlefield,
intensified. Rebels turned the gun of a captured tank against
government forces, shelling an air base north of the city.
Assad's troops bombarded the strategic Salaheddine district
in Aleppo itself with tank and artillery fire supported by
combat aircraft, while rebels tried to consolidate their hold on
areas they have seized.
In the capital, Damascus, troops overran a suburb on
Wednesday and killed at least 35 people, mostly unarmed
civilians, residents and activist organizations said.
The fighting for Syria's two biggest cities highlights the
country's rapid slide into full-scale civil war 17 months after
the peaceful street protests that marked the start of the
The head of the U.N. peacekeeping department, Herve Ladsous,
confirmed to reporters on Thursday that Syria's rebels now had
World powers have watched with mounting concern as
diplomatic efforts, including Annan's mediation effort, have
faltered, and violence that has already claimed an estimated
18,000 lives worsens.
About 60 people were killed in Syria on Thursday, 43 of them
civilians, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for
Also on Thursday, activists and residents in the central
city of Hama said Syrian forces killed at least 50 people during
clashes with rebels there.
The rebels' morale was boosted when they turned a government
tank's gun on the Menakh airfield 35 km (22 miles) north of
Aleppo, a possible staging post for army reinforcements and a
base for war planes and helicopter gunships.
Reuters correspondents heard heavy weapons fire on Thursday
morning from Salaheddine in southwest Aleppo, a gateway to the
city that has been fought over for the past week.
Heavily armed government troops are trying to drive a force
of a few thousand rebel fighters from the city in battle whose
outcome could be a turning point in the conflict.
Aleppo had long stayed aloof from the uprising, but many of
its 2.5 million residents are now caught up in battle zones,
facing shortages of food, fuel, water and cooking gas. Thousands
have fled and hospitals and makeshift clinics can barely cope
with casualties after more than a week of combat.
The U.N. World Food Program and Food and Agriculture
Organization said up to 3 million Syrians were likely to need
food, crop and livestock aid in the next 12 months as the
conflict has prevented farmers harvesting crops.
In New York, the U.N. General Assembly was expected to vote
on Friday on a resolution drafted by Saudi Arabia that backs
Russia, which has consistently supported Syria at the United
Nations, said it would not back the resolution because it was
unbalanced and would encourage rebels to keep fighting.