DAMASCUS - Syrian government troops fought deadly battles with armed rebels on Monday as the European Union pushed for an end to a split with Russia over how to end the 15-month bloodshed.
But he said they agreed that implementing the troubled peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was the only way forward in a situation that risks developing into full-scale civil war.
Government forces attacked rebel strongholds in Idlib province in the northwest and Deir Ezzor in the northeast as violence nationwide claimed nine lives on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based watchdog said that the fighting in Idlib's Jabal al-Zawiya hill district, in which two rebel fighters were killed, was the most intense since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March last year.
In Deir Ezzor, the government deployed helicopters to strafe suspected rebel hideouts in farmland in the Sbeikhan district and one was hit by rebel fire, the Observatory said.
The fighting came a day after Assad vowed to crush the the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), which announced on Friday that it was resuming "defensive operations" because of the failure of a UN-backed ceasefire that was supposed to go into effect from April 12.
The Syrian Observatory said 19 soldiers, eight rebels and 19 civilians were killed in violence across the country on Sunday.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Yerevan Monday for talks with Armenian leaders as she pushed diplomatically for a political transition in Syria amid fears of a full-blown civil war.
Clinton spoke by telephone earlier with UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who agreed to travel to Washington on Friday "to discuss next steps in his six point plan and in particular political transition" in Syria, a senior State Department spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, UN leader Ban Ki-moon met with Saudi King Abdullah on Monday in Jeddah for talks on the crisis in Syria as well as means of combatting terrorism, state news agency SPA said. Ban discussed with the king "regional and international developments and efforts to achieve peace and end bloodshed in Syria and other hot spots in the region," SPA reported.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Sunday accused Syria's President Bashar al-Assad of "manoeuvring" to gain time at a joint news conference with Ban, who described the situation in Syria as "deeply troubling."