President Vladimir Putin has urged patience and time for Kofi Annan's peace plan to take hold in Syria. He made the statement while on a visit to Berlin and Paris. An independent UN panel is to investigate last week's Houla massacre in Syria, in which more than a hundred people - including many children - were slaughtered.
Damascus blames armed opposition fighters for orchestrating the attack and says they're seeking to trigger foreign military action - but several western governments have expelled Syrian diplomats after the atrocity. Russia says the horror in Houla highlights the dangers of backing rebels and extremist elements by the West. The US continues to support the Syrian opposition and is proposing regime change.
Political risk consultant F. William Engdahl says Washington's proclaimed desire for a diplomatic solution to the crisis is laden with contradiction.