Annan To Step Down As U.N.'s Envoy To Syria

The battle for Syria's commercial capital shows no sign of abating. Humanitarian conditions are worsening for civilians in Aleppo.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour with a high-profile departure. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as special envoy to Syria. He complained that his six-point plan to end the bloodshed there, has been ignored.

Eighteen months of civil strife in Syria have killed an estimated 19,000 people. From Beirut, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on signs of a battlefield stalemate, and a long and bloody conflict ahead.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Annan told reporters in Geneva that increasing militarization in Syria, and the lack of unity in the U.N. Security Council, had made it impossible for him to do his job effectively.

KOFI ANNAN: The bloodshed continues, most of all because of Syrian government's intransigence, and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan; and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition - all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community.

KUHN: Annan said he would step down at the end of this month. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accepted Annan's resignation, and indicated he'd look for someone to fill Annan's position. Meanwhile, the battle for Syria's largest city, Aleppo, grinds on. Speaking by Skype from Aleppo, Syrian journalist Wasim Zakour says that days of assaults by government troops, have failed to drive rebels from the city streets.

WASIM ZAKOUR: (Through translator) The regime has no staying power on the ground. The problem is, they have air superiority. Helicopter fire is destroying homes. Missiles are falling indiscriminately, killing innocents - including women and children.

KUHN: But U.N. observers say that both sides are now using heavy weapons. Islamic chanting accompanies a video recently posted on YouTube. It purports to show the Free Syrian Army using two captured tanks against government troops. A shell nearly misses one rebel tank. Two rebels hop out and run just before the tank is hit, killing another crewman.

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KUHN: Fighting continues, too, in less well-known cities such as Dayr az Zawr, on the Euphrates River. Dayr az Zawr revolutionary council spokesman Ous al-Araby says government troops have failed to take the city, after a siege of more than 40 days. The few residents who haven't fled, he says, are surviving on food smuggled in via the river.

OUS AL-ARABY: There is more than 150,000 in this city. And how much you work, or you smuggle food, you know, that's not going to be able to feed all of these people. And after 40 days, even this organization is going to be tired, and maybe it's going to run out of resources.

KUHN: There may be little appetite now, for foreign intervention in the conflict. But some observers say increasing evidence of a protracted civil war makes the logic of intervention inescapable. Beirut-based journalist Hazem Saghiyeh says that foreign governments that are waiting for the Syrians to settle their differences by themselves, are wrong.

HAZEM SAGHIYEH: It's not going to be settled by the Syrians themselves. If it's left to the Syrians, they will carry on killing each other for 100 years. The regime can't eradicate the armed opposition, and the armed opposition cannot get rid of the regime.

KUHN: Sagia predicts that without foreign intervention, Syria may fragment along tribal and sectarian lines. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beirut.

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