Annan arrives in Damascus, Syria tests missiles

Annan arrives in Damascus, Syria tests missiles

Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus on Sunday evening for talks with President Bashar al-Assad, his spokesman said, a day after the international peace envoy admitted that his peace plan had so far failed to end 16 months of bloodshed.

UN and government sources said Annan and Assad would not meet tonight.
Syria’s navy fired live missiles from ships and helicopters over the weekend, state media said on Sunday, in an exercise aiming at demonstrating its ability to “defend Syria’s shores against any possible aggression”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian opposition forces were growing more effective and the sooner the violence ended, the better were the chances of sparing Syria’s government from a “catastrophic assault” by rebel fighters.

Syrian television aired video of a variety of missiles being fired from launchers on land and from ships and showed Syrian Defence Minister Dawud Abdallah Rahijia in attendance.

“Naval Forces conducted an operational live fire exercise on Saturday, using missiles launched from the sea and coast, helicopters and missile boats, simulating a scenario of repelling a sudden attack from the sea,” Syrian news agency SANA said, adding that manoeuvres would continue for several days.

Opposition figures have been calling for a no-fly zone and Nato strikes against Syrian forces, similar to those carried out in Libya last year which enabled rebel ground forces to end the rule of Moammar Gadhafi. But while Assad has faced sanctions and international condemnation over his crackdown on dissent which has left thousands dead, major Western and Arab powers have shied away from direct military action.

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