Kofi Annan

A TRANSITION plan hammered out by world powers for Syria was yesterday branded a failure by official media and an opposition group a day after at least 120 people were reported killed in violence.

World powers meeting in Geneva on Saturday agreed on a plan that could include current regime members, but the West did not see any role for President Bashar al-Assad in a new unity government.

Russia and China insisted Syrians must decide how the transition happens, rather than allow others to dictate their fate. Moscow and Beijing both signed up to the final agreement, that did not make any explicit call for Mr al-Assad to cede power.

Official Syrian media and the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees group eviscerated the outcome. Al-Baath, Syria's ruling party's newspaper, called the meeting a failure. "The agreement of the task force on Syria in Geneva resembles an enlarged meeting of the UN Security Council where the positions of participants remained the same," it said in an editorial.

The Local Co-ordination Committees said the outcome showed the failure to adopt a common position. It called the transition accord "just one version, different in form only, of the demands of Russian leaders allied to the Assad regime and who cover it militarily and politically in the face of international pressure".

Burhan Ghalioun, a senior member and former head of the Syrian National Council, told pan-Arab television Al-Arabiya that "this is the worst international statement yet to emerge from talks on Syria".

Council spokeswoman Basma Qadmani said in Ankara, Turkey, there were some ''positive elements" in the deal, although "important elements remain too ambiguous".

She pointed out that the participants agreed the al-Assad family cannot rule the country any more, and can therefore not lead the transition period. "The second positive element is the agreement that the transition should comply with the legitimate aspirations of Syrian people.. For us this means al-Assad should go because the Syrian people say they want al-Assad to go."

At least 120 people were killed, mostly civilians, on Saturday, the UK -based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said. Yesterday, at least nine people were killed, the watchdog said. Regime forces continued to bombard Homs and blasts were heard in Damascus.

UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan said it was up to Syrians to decide who they wanted in a unity government. But he added: "I would doubt that Syrians . would select people with blood on their hands to lead them."

The US and France said it was clear there was no future role for Mr al-Assad. British Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted the deal was a "compromise agreement" as Russia played up the fact that it had convinced other world powers that it would be "unacceptable" to exclude any party from the transition.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "How the work on a transition to a new stage is conducted will be decided by the Syrians ."

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said "outsiders cannot make decisions for the Syrian people". Mr Annan said history would not look favourably on leaders who failed to end the bloodshed.

Sapa-AFP