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Annan says "optimistic" but no Syria deal yet

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said he was optimistic after a second round of talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday, but acknowledged it would be difficult to reach a deal to halt the bloodshed.

"It's going to be tough. It's going to be difficult but we have to have hope," he told reporters in Damascus. "I am optimistic for several reasons," he said, citing a general desire for peace in Syria.

Annan told reporters he had left "concrete proposals" with Assad, and called for an immediate halt to the killings in Syria, where the United Nations says Assad's forces have killed 7,500 people in a year-long crackdown on protests. Authorities say 2,000 soldiers have been killed by insurgents.

"I have urged the president to heed the African proverb which says you cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail," Annan said. Syria needed to embrace change and reform, he said.

"You have to start by stopping the killings and the misery and the abuses that (are) going on today and then give time (for a) political settlement," he said.

Annan, who also met religious leaders in Damascus on Sunday, said the situation was "so bad and so dangerous" that all Syrians bore a responsibility to "help heal and reconcile this nation".

(Reporting by Marwan Makdesi; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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