Assad retains firm grip on power, rebuffs UN envoy

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad informed UN envoy Kofi Annan in Damascus that as long as “there are armed terrorist groups that work to spread anarchy and destabilize the country,” he would not engage in political dialogue. Annan, however, said the talks were “candid and comprehensive.”

While the two were to meet again on Sunday, government forces did not relent and launched a fresh assault on the region of Idlib.

Despite international condemnation of the violent crackdown on protesters, Assad remains firmly in control, according to US officials. At a meeting of the Arab League, Qatar and Saudi Arabia called for concrete action to curtail the bloodshed in Syria, but Israeli airstrikes on Gaza could further complicate relations within the Arab League, as well as the region.

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