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Kofi Annan resigning as U.N. envoy to Syria

Updated 12:58 p.m. ET

(CBS/AP) Kofi Annan abruptly announced his resignation Thursday as the Arab League and United Nations envoy for the conflict in Syria, to take effect Aug. 31. In talks with reporters, Annan laid much of the blame for his departure on the U.N. Security Council.

"When the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the Security Council," Annan said. "It is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian government and also the opposition to take the steps to bring about the political process. As an envoy, I can't want peace more than the protagonists, more than Security Council or the international community, for that matter."

Annan said a failed six-point plan, commonly referred to as the Annan plan, is actually the Security Council's, since it was endorsed by the body. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon indicated there is generally increasing pessimism on finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

"Tragically, the spiral of violence in Syria is continuing. The hand extended to turn away from violence in favour of dialogue and diplomacy - as spelled out in (Annan's) Six-Point Plan - has not been not taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria. Both the Government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence," Ban said in a written statement. "The persistent divisions within the Security Council have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult," Ban said.

The White House said Annan's resignation highlights the failure of Russia and China to support action against Syrian President Bashar Assad.


White House press secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. is grateful for Annan's willingness to lead efforts to seek a resolution to the ongoing violence in Syria. But he says the Syrian government was never willing to embrace Annan's plan, which included a cease-fire and allowing international monitors to operate in the county.

Carney said the U.S. will continue working with international partners to halt the violence. But he said the U.S. continues to oppose sending weapons to rebel forces in Syria.

The impact of the Annan resignation is the recognition that diplomacy has failed in Syria. On a personal front, Annan clearly was not going down with the ship - i.e. the failure of his six-point peace plan - and his resignation was an affirmation of what most diplomats knew, and that is, both the government and the opposition are in a fight to the finish, CBS News' Pamela Falk reports.

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Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed resolutions calling for forceful action at the U.N. on the Syrian crisis, largely because both believe the U.N. overreached when intervening in Libya last year. Iraq Ambassador to the U.N. Hamid al Bayati said in an interview with CBS News this week that the Arab League and its allies have agreed to bypass Russia and China's veto powers by taking a forceful peace plan to the General Assembly.


Ban said he is looking for a successor to Kofi Annan to serve as an envoy to civil-war wracked Syria.

Annan's plan to resolve the crisis there included a cease-fire that was supposed to take effect in mid-April. But the cease-fire never took hold.

Rights activists report that more than 19,000 people have died in the Syrian crisis since March 2011.

Ban said diplomacy is still the best way to resolve the situation.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Thursday his country regrets Annan's decision to step down, Reuters reports.

"We understand that it's his decision," Churkin told reporters. "We regret that he chose to do so. We have supported very strongly Kofi Annan's efforts. He has another month to go, and I hope this month is going to be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances."

Churkin added he was encouraged that Ban is looking for a successor to Annan.

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