Clinton on Syria: Sand running out of the hourglass

4:43 AM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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(CBS/AP) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that time is running out on Syrian peace hopes and warned that the Syrian state could collapse.

Speaking in Japan, Clinton said Annan's acknowledgement that his peace plan is failing "should be a wake-up call for everyone."

She said last month was the deadliest for the Syrian people in the 16-month revolt, but added that the opposition "is getting more effective in defense of themselves and going on the offensive against the Syrian military."

"The sooner there can be an end to the violence and a beginning of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there is a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria but to the region," Clinton said.

She said that for those who continue to support the regime of President Bashar Assad, the future "should be abundantly clear: ... The sand is running out of the hourglass."

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Special U.N. envoy Kofi Annan acknowledged in an interview published Saturday that the international community's efforts to find a political solution to the escalating violence in Syria have failed.

"The evidence shows that we have not succeeded," he told the French daily Le Monde.

Annan, the special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League, is the architect of the most prominent international plan to end the crisis in Syria.

His six-point plan was to begin with a cease-fire in mid-April between government forces and rebels seeking to topple Assad. But the truce never took hold, and now the almost 300 U.N. observers sent to monitor the cease-fire are confined to their hotels because of the escalating violence.

Kofi Annan: Syria peace effort failing

In Syria, the military began large-scale exercises simulating defense against outside "aggression," the state-run news agency said Sunday - an apparent warning to other countries not to intervene in the country's crisis.

The exercise began Saturday with naval forces in a scenario where they repelled an attack from the sea, and will include air and ground forces over the next few days, SANA agency said. State TV broadcast footage of missiles being fired from launch vehicles and warships.

Some in the Syrian opposition have appealed to the West for foreign forces to step in to stop bloodshed that they say has left more than 14,000 dead since an uprising against Assad began in March 2011. So far, the West has shown little appetite to intervene.

Defense Minister Dawood Rajiha attended the maneuvers and praised the "exceptional performance" of the naval forces which showed "a high level of combat training and ability to defend Syria's shores against any possible aggression."

"The navy carried out the training successfully, repelling the hypothetical attack and striking at given targets with high precision," the report said.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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