U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to work out a unified strategy on the crisis in Syria in talks with Saudi officials on Friday as further violence stymied U.N. efforts to convince Damascus to implement a cease-fire.

Ms. Clinton’s talks with Saudi King Abdullah and other officials come ahead of a 60-nation gathering of the “Friends of the Syrian People” in Istanbul over the weekend aimed at finding ways to aid Syria’s opposition. The U.S. is hoping to help unify the splintered opposition’s ranks while pushing for humanitarian aid and further isolation of Assad’s regime.

Saudi Arabia, along with fellow Gulf nation Qatar, has called for a more aggressive approach, including arming the rebels and carving out a safe haven inside Syria from which the opposition can operate.

International opponents of Assad are struggling to pin down a strategy on Syria as a peace plan put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has so far failed to get off the ground. Syria has accepted the six-point plan, which includes a call for it to implement a cease-fire, but so far there has been no halt in fighting, and the opposition suspects Mr. Assad has no intention of stopping his crackdown and is only playing for time.

Mr. Assad said Thursday that he wants the plan to succeed, but insisted that the opposition must first commit to a cease-fire as well. Mr. Annan urged the Syrian government to halt its troops first.

“The government must stop first and then discuss a cessation of hostilities with the other side,” Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said Friday. “We are appealing to the stronger party to make a gesture of good faith. ... The deadline is now.”

“Clearly, we have not seen a cessation of hostilities and this is of great concern,” he said.

Syrian activists say fresh fighting erupted Friday between soldiers and rebel fighters in the country’s northern Idlib province. More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria’s violence since last March, according to U.N. estimates.

Ms. Clinton arrived in Riyadh and began talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said. Saudi official news agency said Clinton then met with King Abdullah in his palace in Riyadh, along with top Saudi intelligence and security officials.

“Clinton will hold extensive talks with Saudi counterparts on the situation in Syria and on American efforts to stop bloodbath in Syria,” a Saudi Foreign Ministry official in Riyadh said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he not authorized to discuss the talks.

The talks came a day after an Arab League summit in Baghdad, where divisions among Arab nations over Syria were clear. In a sign that they see little hope in diplomatic efforts from the League, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries sent only low-level officials to the summit. In the end, the summit issued a joint resolution that held little new beyond expressing support for Annan’s efforts.

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