Annan tours Syria’s neighbours in his quest for conflict’s resolution

Annan ‘will meet Maliki and leave’

BAGHDAD - UN and Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday for surprise talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on the deadly conflict in neighbouring Syria, officials said.
"Kofi Annan arrived in Baghdad to discuss a couple issues, including Syria," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He will meet Maliki and leave."
Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh added: "He is going to discuss Syria issues."
Annan's visit to Iraq -- his first to Baghdad in his role as UN and Arab League peace envoy -- comes after a trip to Tehran and one to Damascus earlier in the week.
He was due to hold a joint news conference with Maliki later.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iran reiterated its full support for Annan's peace plan aimed at ending the Syria crisis, saying that it should be fully implemented to restore stability.
"We expect that Mr Annan will continue his efforts to bring about stability and peace in Syria and the region," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at a joint news conference in Tehran with the former UN Secretary General.
Annan arrived in Iran after talks with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday and following an international meeting in Geneva last month to which Iran, Damascus's staunchest regional ally, was not invited.
He said he agreed with Assad on a new political "approach" to end the nearly 16-month conflict that he would put to the rebels. He would not elaborate, saying he must first talk to the Syrian opposition.
Tehran was excluded from the Geneva talks -- which the Islamic republic dubbed "unsuccessful" -- following US and EU objections.
The gathering in Switzerland agreed a plan for a political transition in Syria which did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit, although the West and the opposition made clear it saw no role for him in a unity government.
Monitors say that more than 17,000 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March 2011.
At least 98 people were killed nationwide on Monday, including 34 soldiers, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, almost doubling an earlier toll of 55.
The Britain-based monitoring group had said nearly 100 people were also killed on Sunday.