UPDATE 2-UN chief 'disappointed' by Assad's speech on Syria crisis

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 7 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon voiced disappointment on Monday with Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad's rejection of peace talks in a defiant weekend
speech that anti-government rebels described as a renewed
declaration of war.

Ban was "disappointed that the speech by President Bashar al
Assad on 6 January does not contribute to a solution that could
end the terrible suffering of the Syrian people," U.N. spokesman
Martin Nesirky said of the president's Sunday speech at the
Damascus Opera House.

"The speech rejected the most important element of the
Geneva Communique of 30 June 2012, namely a political transition
and the establishment of a transitional governing body with full
executive powers that would include representatives of all
Syrians," Nesirky told reporters.

He said Ban "reaffirms his long-held view that there is no
military solution to the conflict in Syria."

Ban and U.N.-Arab League peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi
"continue to work towards a political solution to the conflict
through a political transition that includes the establishment
of a transitional government and the holding of free and fair
elections under the auspices of the United Nations," he added.

Nesirky said that Brahimi met on Sunday with the president
of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz Alkhatib, and with the
prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar on Monday. On
Wednesday, Brahimi will meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Ali
Akbar Salehi.

Brahimi is also working hard on a "possible meeting" with
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S.
Undersecretary of State William Burns, Nesirky said.

So far, a year of intensive U.N.-Arab League diplomacy has
failed to make a dent on the war in Syria, which has claimed
more than 60,000 lives, according to the United Nations.

Brahimi is now concentrating on healing the rift between
Russia and the United States on Syria as the 21-month-old
uprising becomes increasingly gruesome and sectarian, U.N.
officials and diplomats say. That rift has left the U.N.
Security Council in a deadlock.

The crux of their disagreement is whether Assad should go
now, as the rebels, Washington and the Europeans want, or later,
as Moscow would prefer, after a period with a transitional
leadership that could include members of Assad's government.

Russia has repeatedly said it is not wedded to Assad,
although it has refused to abandon him. Moscow and Beijing have
vetoed three Security Council resolutions condemning Assad's
assault on what began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but
eventually became a full-blown civil war.