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China offers vague plan for Syria

A new proposal to end the conflict in Syria was presented Thursday by China, one of the Syrian government’s few foreign defenders, which calls for a phased-in truce, the establishment of a transitional authority, and an intensified international response to the humanitarian crisis afflicting millions of Syrians.

It was unclear whether the proposal differed substantially from a plan that international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is formulating to end the 20-month-old conflict. But it appeared to reflect concern by Chinese leaders that their consistent support for the legitimacy of the government of President Bashar Assad had strained China’s relations with other Arab countries that have been pushing for Assad’s removal.

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China’s proposal also was publicized a day after the United States, a strong supporter of the anti-Assad rebellion in Syria, announced its own aggressive proposals to reshape the Syrian opposition, which has been criticized as a dysfunctional group led by out-of-touch Syrian exiles who have little feel for the combat that is convulsing much of the country. The US proposal is to be presented at a meeting of Syrian opposition figures in Qatar next week.

Together, the proposals by China and the United States suggested that the big powers on opposite sides of the Syria conflict had grown increasingly impatient with what appears to be a stalemate on the ground.

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