Top of the Morning: Syria Opposition Mulls Geneva Plan; Mexico Presidential Election; Destruction of Holy Sites in Timbuktu

Top stories from DAWNS Digest. 

Syrian Opposition Rejects Geneva Talks Outcome

Foreign ministers from several countries met in Geneva on Saturday for a last-ditch effort to find a political solution to Syria’s deepening crisis. The usual diplomatic cleavages emerged, with Russia refusing to back a plan that explicitly called for Assad’s ouster. That seems to have inspired Syria’s opposition coalition to reject the outcome. “An international conference in Geneva on Saturday accepted a watered down version of U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for the creation of a transitional government in Syria. But at Russia’s insistence the compromise agreement left the door open to Assad being part of the interim administration. Burhan Ghalioun, a senior SNC member and the group’s former head, told pan-Arab Al-Arabiya television that ‘this is the worst international statement yet to emerge from talks on Syria.’ According to the SNC’s official Facebook page, he described as a ‘mockery’ the notion that Syrians should negotiate with “their executioner, who has not stopped killing, torturing and raping women for 16 months.’…Moscow and Beijing had refused to back a provision that would call for Assad to step aside, with Russia insisting that outsiders cannot order a political solution for Syria.” (VOA   But….the opposition groups are meeting in Cairo today with the Arab League to see if they might soften their position. (Daily Star

Islamist Rebels Destroy Holy Sites in Timbuktu

The Al Qaeda linked Ansar Dine group, which controls a large part of Northern Mali, including the fabled (and UNESCO World Heritage designated) city of Timbuktu. The hardline Islamists, believing the local sufi shrines to be idolatrous, destroyed several holy sites. “The group has threatened to destroy all of the 16 main Sufi mausoleum sites in Timbuktu despite international outcry. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to the attacks. Local journalist Yaya Tandina told Reuters that about 30 militants armed with Kalashnikovs and pick-axes destroyed three mausoleums of saints on Sunday. ‘They had armed men guarding the door. Just like yesterday, the population did not react. They (local people) said we need to let them (the Islamists) do what they want, hoping that someday we will rebuild the tombs,’ Tandina said.” (Tribune

Enrique Peña Nieto Wins Mexican Presidential Election

The party that once held a near autocratic grip on Mexico seems to be back in power. “If the victory is confirmed by official results to be announced early Monday morning, it would be a stunning reversal of fortune for the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, which was thought to be crippled after its defeat in the 2000 presidential election ushered in an era of real multiparty democracy here. Buoyed by a strong machine across several states and cities, by the youthful Mr. Peña Nieto’s capture of the television spotlight and by voters’ unhappiness with the direction of the country, the PRI defeated both the incumbent conservative party and the candidate who nearly beat the conservatives last time. The surveys indicated that Mr. Peña Nieto was leading over Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution, a former Mexico City mayor who lost narrowly in 2006. The conservative candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, a former cabinet secretary who sought to become Mexico’s first woman president, was running third.” (NYT