- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2012

United Nations — Kofi Annan announced Thursday that he will step down as the U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria at the end of the month, citing “name-calling” and “finger-pointing” in the U.N. Security Council that undermined his efforts to bring peace in the 17-month-old rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Things fell apart in New York,” he said of the headquarters of the United Nations, in a hastily convened press conference at the U.N. office in Geneva as fighting continued to rage in Syria.

“The increasing militarization on the ground [in Syria] and the clear lack of unity in the Security Council have fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role,” he said.

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked efforts for strong sanctions against Mr. Assad’s regime and calls for his resignation, while the United States, Britain and France have supported tough resolutions against the Syrian government. All five nations have veto power over any measure proposed in the 15-member Security Council.

“At a time when we need — when the Syrian people desperately need — action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council,” Mr. Annan said.

Mr. Annan told reporters that he telephoned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit his resignation from a position that, he noted, many had called a diplomatic “Mission Impossible.”

Mr. Annan, himself a former U.N. secretary-general, said he accepted the assignment in February because he believed he had a “sacred duty to do whatever was in my power to help the Syrian people find a peaceful solution to this bloody conflict.”

More than 19,000 people have been killed since the uprising erupted in March 2011, according to Syrian activists.

Mr. Annan criticized the Syrian regime’s “intransigence and [its] continuing refusal” to accept his six-point peace plan that was supposed to have taken effect with a cease-fire in April.

He added that he had no “Plan B” but another envoy might have new ideas.

“The world is full of crazy people like me, so don’t be surprised if someone else arrives to take it on,” he said.

In New York, Mr. Ban said Mr. 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.”

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Mr. Annan’s efforts were doomed from the beginning because of the Syrian regime.

“His mission could never had succeeded so long as the Assad regime continuously broke its pledges to implement the six-point peace plan and persisted in using horrific violence against its own people,” she said.

In Syria on Thursday, rebels attacked a military air base near with a captured Syrian army tank in one of the first signs they are deploying heavy weapons taken from the military over the past weeks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels turned the tank on the Menagh military airport outside Aleppo, Syria’s largest city where rebels and Syrian troops have been battling for two weeks.

In the capital, Damascus, soldiers Wednesday night raided rebels in neighborhoods on the southern edge of the city, the government announced Thursday.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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