- Associated Press - Friday, March 9, 2012

BEIRUT — The leader of Syria’s main opposition group rejected calls Friday by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar Assad’s government, saying such talks are pointless and unrealistic as long as the regime massacres its own people.

As the prospects for diplomacy faltered, a Turkish official said two Syrian generals, a colonel and two sergeants defected to Turkey on Thursday, a day after Syria’s deputy oil minister also deserted Assad’s regime, making him the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition.

The military defections are significant as most army defectors so far have been low-level conscripts.

The U.N. humanitarian chief said the Syrian government had agreed to a joint mission to assess the country’s humanitarian needs — a rare concession by a regime that has greatly limited work by outside groups. But Valerie Amos said she was still waiting for the Syrian government to respond to a long-term proposal to deliver aid.


Activists said at least 26 people were killed across Syria on Friday.

In a telephone interview from Paris, Burhan Ghalioun, who heads the opposition Syrian National Council, told the Associated Press that Annan already has disappointed the Syrian people.

Annan, who has been appointed joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, has said his mission was to start a “political process” to resolve the conflict in the country. He is due this weekend in Syria where he will meet with Assad.

In comments made in Cairo on Thursday after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, Annan warned against further militarization of the Syrian conflict and urged the opposition to come together with the government to find a political solution.

“I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation,” Annan said. “I believe any further militarization would make the situation worse.”

Annan also said he would be making “realistic” proposals to resolve the conflict. He did not elaborate.

But Ghalioun blasted such statements as unrealistic.

“These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day,” Ghalioun said. “It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again.”

“My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts,” he added.

Syrian activists also rejected Annan’s call for dialogue.

“It seems he lives on Mars,” said Mohammad Saeed, an activist in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

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