Middle East

UN envoy calls for transitional government in Syria

UN peace envoy Kofi Annan has said there is international agreement that a transitional government should be set up in Syria.

This could include both members of the government and opposition, he said after talks in Geneva.

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could not remain in power.

Meanwhile, activists said a funeral procession in a suburb of Damascus came under mortar attack and 30 people died.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released amateur video footage claiming to show the explosion in Zamalka, a town 10km (six miles) east of the Syrian capital.

There has been no independent confirmation of the incident.

'Legitimate aspirations'

In Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there were no preconditions to the proposed transition that dictated who should or should not be in the transitional government.

Saturday's "action group" conference was attended by both Western powers and Russia and China.

Mr Annan also called for an immediate ceasefire and adherence to the UN's six-point peace plan.

He said there should be access to Syria for humanitarian organisations and media.

Mr Annan said the conference had agreed there should be a "transitional government body with full executive powers".

"We are determined to work together urgently and intensively to bring about an end to the violence and human rights abuses, and the launch of a Syrian-led political process, leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future," he said.

He warned: "The action group has pledged action, and they are sending a message of determination and hope, but today's words must not become tomorrow's disappointments.

"The hard work starts now. We must work together to implement what has been agreed. We cannot do this alone. I hope all in Syria will embrace what has been laid out here and work with us to stop the killing and build a better future."

Speaking on behalf of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, UK, France, Russia and China - British Foreign Secretary William Hague said all five were committed to supporting Mr Annan's efforts.

Russia had blocked a provision in Mr Annan's plan that would have called for Mr Assad to step down to make way for a unity government.

Mrs Clinton told reporters after Saturday's talks: "Assad will still have to go... given the blood on his hands."

Mr Assad has said he will not accept any solution to his country's crisis imposed from outside.

He told Iranian television that it was an "internal issue" which had "nothing to do with foreign countries", stressing that no amount of foreign pressure would make his government change its policy on internal security.

Some 15,800 people have died in the 16-month uprising against the rule of President Assad, activists say.

In the latest report, the observatory said a mortar bomb had gone off in Zamalka.

The first video the group released showed a crowd of chanting mourners bearing a shrouded body on a bier along a street. There is a sudden, blinding flash and a loud bang with the sound of breaking glass, at which point the recording stops.

In the second video, dazed people can be seen staggering or running through a cloud of smoke or dust.

When the cloud clears, bodies, some of them mutilated, can be seen strewn along the street. A shrouded corpse on a bier similar to that from the first video can be seen abandoned on the ground nearby.