Report: Obama renews push for Assad’s exit with Russian support

President Obama is considering a new plan to push embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, as violence in the country escalates.

The proposed agreement would force Assad to relinquish power but leave in place elements of his regime, similar to an arrangement which lead to Yemen's transition from the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year, reported The New York Times on Sunday.

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But the plan hinges on the cooperation of Russia, a strong defender of the Assad regime, which has blocked United Nations actions intended to raise pressure on the Syrian government.

Reports said Obama brought up the proposal with Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev at last week’s G8 meetings at Camp David.

The Russian government is believed to be open to the proposal which could allow for Assad’s peaceful exit, preserve stability in the country during the transition, and allow Russia to maintain close-ties with its Middle East ally.

Obama is expected to discuss the plan further with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month, the Times reports.

The new focus on pushing Assad from power comes after reports of a massacre in the village of Houla, near the city of Homs. A U.N. team said Saturday that more than 90 people were killed including at least 32 children.

Violence between anti-Assad forces and the government has continued for over a year.

Assad's forces have used tanks and heavy artillery against lightly-armed opposition forces leading to heavy civilian casualties and an international outcry.

In April, hopes for a negotiated settlement dropped after Assad failed to agree to the terms of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

The White House said that supporters of that plan should "admit defeat" and consider other proposals earlier this month.

Some congressional lawmakers led by Sens John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) have called for providing military support to Syrian opposition forces. 

Last week, Lieberman said he believed the administration was moving closer toward a military response. 

"I think they're moving toward some more real action," Lieberman said to The Hill.

"Every day that passes more people get killed," he said. "It's our moral obligation to help them." 

But at last week's NATO summit in Chicago, US and NATO military leaders denied plans to intervene in Syria.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance had "no intention" of taking military action to remove Assad from power. 

On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the Syrian government's human rights record, saying that "the Assad regime’s brutality against its own people must and will end, because Syrians know they deserve a better future." Her remarks came ahead of the release of the State Department's annual human-rights report.