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International community urged to back Annan's plan for ending crisis
Beijing expressed deep concern over the Syrian crisis at a meeting in Geneva and endorsed a proposal to establish a transitional governing body, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said on Saturday.
Ministers concluded the Action Group on Syria ministerial meeting, which lasted all day, and the participating parties agreed to continue their support for the mediation of UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
Beijing does not agree with actions that impose deadlines or stumbling blocks to Annan's mediation, and Yang called on the international community to continue their supports for Annan's efforts.
"External parties should not replace the Syrian people to make the choice, and China opposes the attempts that forcibly impose a political solution to Syria," Yang said, urging respect for the choice of the Syrian people.
Politically resolving the crisis requires both a sense of urgency and patience, and the related parties should "deliver a unanimous message", he said.
The final communique said a transitional governing body that can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place should be formed.
"Action Group members are committed to the sovereignty, independence, national unity and the territorial integrity of Syria," the communique said.
The communique said the future of Syria will be genuinely democratic and pluralistic.
Yang said the consensus, including the "transitional governing body", is designed to provide constructive assistance to a political transition process in Syria.
Annan said that the Syrian government and opposition must cooperate with a plan for a transitional government, which he hoped would bring real results within a year. The Action Group on Syria would reconvene as necessary, he said.
Hua Liming, former Chinese ambassador to Iran and now a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said the dispute among related powers mostly stems from disagreements over whether external parties are entitled to impose a shift in power on a sovereign state.
"China has made its stance clear that the future of Syria is up to Syrian people, yet some Western countries still stick to setting up preconditions, including asking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down," Hua said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was "delighted" at the outcome, and what the document agreed on did not imply Assad should step down.
Lavrov told a news conference that there were no preconditions to Syria's transition process and no attempt to exclude any group from a proposed national unity government. The key point was that the agreement did not attempt to impose a process on Syria, he said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday strongly endorsed the new international plan, yet she said it would send a clear message to Assad that he must step down.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that any Syrian transition government "will be chosen by mutual consent and will exclude murderers".
Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected the UN-brokered peace plan for political transition, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time and vowing not to negotiate with Assad or members of his regime.
The Local Coordination Committees group, which organizes protests on the ground in Syria, said the outcome of the Switzerland talks showed once again the failure to adopt a "common position", and called the transition accord "just one version, different in form only".
Pro-government daily newspaper Al-Watan welcomed the statement of the Geneva meeting, saying it did not refer to a post-crisis scenario similar to Yemen with a negotiated departure of Assad, or recommend military intervention as in Libya.
AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.
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