BEIRUT — Syria’s opposition on Friday reported the deadliest 24-hour period so far in the uprising against President Bashar Assad and said rebel fighters had seized two Syrian generals, one of them the highest-ranking officer to fall into insurgent hands.
Accounts of the intensified mayhem in Syria came as Kofi Annan, the special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League, prepared to hold a high-level meeting in Geneva that includes the five permanent members of the Security Council to rescue his sidelined Syrian peace plan from total irrelevance.
Annan told Reuters television that he was optimistic that the meeting, to be held Saturday, would be a success. But Russia, the Syrian government’s most important backer, suggested that Annan’s hope for creating a political transition in Syria had serious problems, raising questions about what the Geneva meeting could accomplish.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry called for new cease-fire mechanisms and the synchronized withdrawal of all armed combatants from Syria’s populated battle zones.
Only then, the statement said, could talks begin that ‘‘would allow the Syrians to independently define the agenda and time frames of the transition period.’’
‘In Hillary Clinton I heard a very experienced diplomat, an experienced politician.’
Russia has opposed any proposal that would impose a political solution on the Syrians from the outside.
The Foreign Ministry statement was issued shortly before Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia met in St. Petersburg, Russia, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has repeatedly clashed with Lavrov over the crisis and has called on Assad to resign as part of any solution to the crisis. Both Lavrov and Clinton are planning to attend the Geneva conference.
At the end of his three-hour meeting with Clinton, Lavrov told reporters that there was a good chance that world powers would come to a constructive agreement in Geneva. He said he believed that the United States had softened its position, and fully understood Russia’s demand that Syrians, rather than foreigners, drive a plan for political transition.
“In Hillary Clinton I heard a very experienced diplomat, an experienced politician, who said that she understood our position,” he said.
Tallies by Syrian opposition groups that track casualties reported Friday that the previous day’s death toll had reached 190 from violence scattered in towns and cities throughout the country. The tallies were detailed but could not be confirmed independently.
The largest number was concentrated in Douma, an insurgent enclave about 8 miles northwest of Damascus, according to reports from both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, and the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based group.
A spokesman for the Syrian Observatory said the death toll Thursday was the worst of any single day this year, with 125 confirmed civilian fatalities as well as the deaths of 65 fighters reported but under investigation. The observatory considers a death confirmed when videotape or other documentary evidence identifying the victim is received.
The coordination committees, which uses similar methodology but acts independently, reported 139 civilian deaths Thursday.
Syria’s Al Dunya TV confirmed the concentration of deadly violence in Douma. “The eradication operations in Douma are based on a ‘surgical approach’ and will continue to exterminate all terrorists,’’ the station said.
The two Syrian generals who were reported seized appeared in a rebel video with three masked fighters who ordered them to identify themselves.
They said they were arrested by rebels on June 22 and last Saturday in Damascus, and the video, posted on the Internet, showed close-ups of their identity cards and apparent bruising on their faces.