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2000 GMT: Syria. Back to our opening story, with a far-from-positive signal from the meeting between United Nations envoy Kofi Annan and President Assad.
Annan's spokesman confined himself to general rhetoric about the discussion, with the UN envoy conveying "the grave concern of the international community about the violence in Syria" and continuing:
The Syrian people do not want the future to be one of bloodshed and division. Yet the killings continue and the abuses are still with us today.
I appealed to him for bold steps now -- not tomorrow, now -- to create momentum for the implementation of the plan.
The real tip-off on the talks comes from Syrian State news agency SANA, in its headline "Success of Annan's Plan Depends on Stopping Terrorism and Weapon Smuggling" and text:
President al-Assad pointed out that the armed terrorist groups escalated their terrorist acts noticeably as of late in various areas across Syria, committing murder and abduction against Syrian citizens in addition to robberies and targeting public and private properties with arson and vandalism.
He stressed the need for the countries who are financing, arming and harboring the terrorist groups to commit to Annan's plan, and that these countries' political will to participate in stopping terrorism must be put to the test.
President al-Assad affirmed to Annan that the success of his plan depends on stopping weapon smuggling and curbing terrorism and those who support it.
Translation? Assad and the regime have told Annan that the insurgents, and any international supporters of them, have to make the initial concessions --- laying down arms and accepting Government authority throughout the country. That in turn means there will be no pull-back of regime forces or let-up of shelling when Assad's military feel they are being challenged.
I will be speaking with Monocle 24 about this at 2110 GMT.