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Annan says Syria president discussed transition

Updated 4:42 PM ET

(CBS/AP) GENEVA - International envoy Kofi Annan says Syrian President Bashar Assad has discussed the possibility of forming a transitional Syrian government.

An international conference in Geneva last month proposed having a transitional framework.

Annan says during his discussions with Assad in Damascus this week the Syrian leader "did offer a name" of someone who could serve as an interlocutor for the regime as it explores ways of forming a transitional government with the opposition.

Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, told reporters in Geneva that he was now considering the person whom Assad proposed, but he did not identify who it is.

He spoke Wednesday after a videoconference session with the U.N. Security Council in New York.

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Earlier, a U.N. diplomat said Annan urged the U.N. Security Council to send a message to the Syrian government and the opposition that there will be "consequences" if they don't comply with demands for an immediate cease-fire,

Russia and China, key allies of  Assad and veto-wielding council members, have blocked repeated attempts by the United States and its European allies to even threaten "consequences" -- a diplomatic code word for sanctions.

The diplomat, speaking spoke on condition of anonymity because Annan's videoconference briefing from Geneva was at a closed session, said that the council should insist on implementation of its resolutions including Annan's six-point peace plan.

That plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of heavy weapons from populated areas by the Syrian government to be followed by an opposition cessation of hostilities.

The U.N. sent a 300-strong unarmed observer mission for 90 days to oversee the cessation of violence and monitor implementation of the Annan plan. It was forced to withdraw from key conflict areas because of the escalating fighting and the council must decide what to do about extending its mandate which expires on July 20.

China's U.N. ambassador, Li Baodong, said Beijing "favors a rollover of the observer mandate," reports CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk, from U.N. Headquarters. In addition, the Russian Federation has circulated a draft resolution to extend the term of the observers but to have them moved to Damascus and to focus on promoting a political solution.

"The likely action of the Security Council to extend the mandate of the observers keeps the Annan plan on life support but it does not solve the overriding problem in Syria, and that is the violence and the opposition demand that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad step down," Falk said.

"We think it's a mistake to focus just on UNSMIS (the observer mission) in isolation. We want compliance with the decisions of the Security Council. We want to see a stop to heavy weapons and we want to make use of our toolbox," Germany's U.N. ambassador Peter Wittig said.

Gérard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador said, " Every week, hundred of Syrians are dying. The Council has to act."

Another U.N. diplomat said U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the council the ceiling of 300 observers should remain and the U.N.should decide when they should be deployed. A third diplomat said the peacekeeping department plans to temporarily withdraw half the peacekeepers, placing them on 48-hour standby to return if conditions change.

Meanwhile, a Syrian opposition figure said Wednesday that the Syrian ambassador to Iraq has defected and will seek asylum in Turkey, the most senior diplomat to abandon the regime since the uprising against Assad began 16 months ago.

The ambassador, Nawaf Fares, is heading to Turkey, said Khaled Khoja, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. If confirmed, it would be the second major defection to hit the Assad regime in less than a week.

"It's certain. He has defected. He declared his defection," said Khoja, who is based in Istanbul. Asked for details, Khoja said the information came from his own sources on the ground in Syria.

An operator who answered the phone at the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad said there was nobody at the embassy. When asked if the ambassador is currently in Iraq, the operator said he did not know.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. had no confirmation of the defection of Syria's ambassador to Iraq as of Wednesday afternoon. But he said other recent high-level defections from the Assad regime were "a welcome development."

"That is an indication of the fact that support for Assad is crumbling," Carney said.

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