TEHRAN -- Special envoy Kofi Annan said Wednesday in Tehran that Iran could help solve the crisis in Syria, where activists reported fresh violence a day before an international cease-fire is supposed to take effect.
Iran is one of Syria's strongest allies, and former U.N. chief Annan went there to bolster support for his faltering plan to stop the country's slide toward civil war.
"Iran, given its special relations with Syria, can be part of the solution," Annan said during a news conference with Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. "The geopolitical location of Syria is such that any miscalculation and error can have unimaginable consequences."
The conflict in Syria is among the most explosive of the Arab Spring, in part because of the country's allegiances to powerful forces including Lebanon's Hezbollah and Shiite powerhouse Iran. The uprising that began more than a year ago seeks the ouster of authoritarian President Bashar Assad.
Iran has opposed any foreign intervention in the crisis and Salehi insisted that "change in Syria" should come under the leadership of Assad.
Syria's regime defied the Tuesday deadline to pull out troops from cities and towns that was set in the deal brokered by Annan and launched fresh attacks on rebellious areas.
But Annan insists there is still time to salvage the truce by 6 a.m. Thursday, the deadline for government and rebel fighters to cease all hostilities.
"We've been in touch with them (Syrian rebels) and have had positive answers from them. ... I think by 6 in the morning on the 12th, Thursday, we should see a much improved situation on the ground," Annan said.
"It is possible to do it and it should be in the interests of the people of Syria," he added.
There was more violence on Wednesday, putting the chances of a truce even deeper in doubt. Syrian troops took control of large parts of villages and towns near the border with Turkey.
The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, reported shelling of several rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs. A second network, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said "tens of army vehicles" are deploying in the southern town of Maaraba.
The Observatory added that two people were killed in the eastern town of Qoriah during raids by regime force.
Activist Mohammed Abu Nasr said Syrian forces entered the border town of Azaz, about two miles (three kilometers) from the Turkish border and set homes of activists on fire.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press, Annan said Tuesday that Syria has not pulled troops and heavy military equipment out of cities and towns, and that the regime's last-minute conditions put the entire cease-fire at risk.
The council strongly backed Annan, with all 15 members - including Syrian allies China and Russia - approving a media statement expressing "deep concern" at the failure by Damascus to withdraw its troops and heavy equipment.
Mroue reported from Beirut.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|