Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told the UN-Arab League special envoy that he welcomes any honest effort to end the violence in his country. Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus amid reports of more violence.
The United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, held talks with President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday, after reported heavy shelling of the northwestern city of Idlib by government troops.
"Syria is ready to bring success to any honest bid to find a solution," the official SANA news agency quoted Assad as telling Annan in their talks in Damascus.
"No dialogue or political process can succeed as long as there are terrorist groups that are working to sow chaos and destabilize the country by attacking civilians and soldiers," the Syrian president added.
Annan made no public comment on their discussion.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the press agency AFP that the attack on Idlib was the "heaviest bombardment" since troop reinforcements were sent to the city earlier this week.
"It's the prelude to the launch of a ground offensive," he added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Annan should call for aid agencies to be granted access to locked-down protest cities and for authorities to evacuate casualties and provide relief supplies to civilians trapped inside.
"I very strongly urged Kofi Annan to ensure there must be an immediate ceasefire," Ban said, adding, "I also asked him to urge Assad to facilitate humanitarian assistance and access."
Syrian opposition members however, say that dialogue is pointless as long as the regime continues to kill people.
According to UN figures, over 7,500 people have been killed since the conflict started nearly a year ago.
Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, on Saturday told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo that world leaders should recognize the opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Al-Thani went on to say that a military intervention was necessary to stop the violence.
"The time has come to send Arab and international troops to Syria," the Qatari foreign minister said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, made clear to Annan that Moscow would oppose such a move.
"A particular emphasis was placed on the inadmissibility of trampling on international legal norms, including through crude interference in Syria's internal affairs," the foreign ministry said in a release.
sb,slk/pfd (Reuters, AFP)