UK & World News
Syria 'Action Group' Calls For Unity Govt
World powers meeting to discuss the conflict in Syria have agreed a unity government should be formed including members of the current regime as well as the opposition.
The so-called "action group" on Syria was meeting in Geneva, Switzerland amid ongoing bloody violence between the Syrian security forces and rebels aiming to end President Bashar al Assad's rule.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the plan agreed by the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, the US, China, Russia and France - as well as Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar paved the way for a post-Assad government.
"Assad will still have to go," she told reporters.
"What we have done here is to strip away the fiction that he and those with blood on their hands can stay in power."
But the compromise does allow the president and his supporters to be part of the desired transition of power.
UN special envoy Kofi Annan said: "It's for the Syrian people to determine the future of the country. All groups and segments of society must be enabled to participate in an inclusive national dialogue process, whose key outcomes must be implemented.
"The hard work starts now. We must work together to implement what has been agreed.
He said all parties must now put forward interlocutors to help him work towards a settlement.
He added: "I will doubt that the Syrians who have fought so hard to have independence ... will select people with blood on their hands to lead them."
The agreement came after Russia, which has repeatedly refused to support criticism of the Syrian government and has continued to supply it with military equipment, said it would not back calls for Assad to step down.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was "delighted" with the latest plan.
He said there were no preconditions to the transition process and the agreement did not attempt to impose a process on Syria.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the Russian and Chinese support for the communique.
"These have been difficult talks, but have resulted in a step forward that is worth having," he said. "It is the first time that the P5 and other key players have spelled out in detail what transition should look like, including a transitional unity government involving the opposition and based on the principle of mutual consent."
Earlier, Mr Hague had stressed the importance of Mr Assad being removed from power saying he could not "credibly lead the process of transition in Syria".
It seems unlikely that either President Assad or the disparate opposition groups will go along with plan.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, former US deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, told Sky News: "It is not clear there is anyone in Damascus who is willing to take them up on this offer.
"Without that I think we are looking at a continuing slide into a worsening conflict."