Annan pursues political solution in fresh talks with al-Assad
Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan on Sunday began a second meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to push for a political solution to the country's year-long conflict.
There were no immediate details on the meeting, which was preceded by talks between Annan and Syria's religious leaders.
Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Saturday made proposals to al-Assad on halting the violence in the country, allowing humanitarian agencies in and initiating an "inclusive political dialogue to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the people", according to the UN.
A UN statement quoted Annan as describing the talks on Saturday with al-Assad "as candid and comprehensive."
Al-Assad, facing unprecedented protests to his 12-year rule, has ruled out the possibility of a political solution to the crisis whilst there were still what he called "armed terrorist groups" operating in the country, according to Syrian state media.
Annan is expected to leave Damascus later on Sunday for Qatar, which has accused al-Assad's government of pursuing a "systematic genocide" against the Syrians.
As Annan was pursuing his two-day mission in Damascus, opposition activists said government forces Sunday attacked areas in the volatile northern province of Idlib.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a soldier was killed Sunday in fighting between army forces and defectors in Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib close to the border with Turkey.
Government forces, meanwhile, arrested students at Damascus University as they were planning an anti-regime demonstration, added the London-based observatory.
State-run news agency SANA reported that Syrian boxing champion Ghiath Tayfour was Sunday killed by an "armed terrorist group" in the city of Aleppo.
Tayfour, 43, was shot dead as he was driving his car near Aleppo University, according to the agency.
News from Syria cannot be independently verified as the government bars foreign media and humanitarian groups from the country.