- NEW: A Syrian former member of parliament makes an impassioned plea at Paris meeting
- The only solution to the Syrian crisis is a political transition, Francois Hollande says
- “Bashar al-Assad’s regime will not last,” he says
- Opposition: At least nine people are killed in early morning fighting Friday
Paris (CNN) — French President Francois Hollande on Friday demanded Syria’s embattled leader step down, saying a political transition is the only way to end 16 months of violence in the Middle East nation.
“Bashar al-Assad’s regime will not last. Its fall is inevitable,” Hollande said during an opening statement at the so-called Friends of Syria meeting in Paris that brought together representatives of some 60 countries.
One of the things the United States and others expect to come out of the meeting is consequences for al-Assad’s regime, including imposing stricter economic sanctions and bolstering the support of the opposition.
Hollande said the group is committed to improving humanitarian aid and increasing support to the opposition, particularly in regard to communications.
He also urged the group to pledge that “the international community will help the Syrian people to rebuild that country when the time comes.”
The U.N. Security Council will review the plan, according to a senior State Department official, who was traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to France.
But it was unclear whether two members of the Security Council — Russia and China — will reverse their long-standin
g opposition to forcing al-Assad from power.
The two trade allies of Syria have vetoed previous efforts by the Security Council to condemn the violence and oust al-Assad.
“I don’t know what they’ll do in New York, but they certainly can see that continuing the killing in Syria is not in their interest any more than it’s in the interest of us or anybody else,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as a matter of practice.
Neither Russia nor China were represented at the Paris meeting.
Hollande also had a message for the two countries: “I’d like to speak to those who are not here. … At this stage in the Syrian crisis, it has become abundantly clear that the crisis is a threat to the world’s security.”
“To those who are worried about the balance of the regime in the region, it is in our common interest to work together … to return stability,” he said.
Clinton will consult with Hollande and others, including members of the Syrian opposition.
The Paris meeting comes less than a week after a conference of foreign ministers, which included China and Russia, met in Geneva and called for a transitional government body as a step toward ending the uprising.
That emergency meeting, called by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, raised hopes that Russia was easing its position.
But even as Russia appeared to agree that a key step in the peace process was the establishment of a transitional government, the Russian foreign minister said it should not be viewed as outside powers imposing a transitional government on Syrians.
The Paris meeting comes amid reports of renewed fighting across Syria.
Riad Seif, a former member of parliament recently allowed to leave Syria to seek medical treatment, made an impassioned plea at the meeting.
“After so many conferences, we fail to see how we have so many friends and people are dying every day,” Seif said. “We would like your friendship to be effective, to put an end to this massacre.”
At least nine people were killed in early morning fighting Friday, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Among the dead, the LCC said, were six in hard-hit Idlib, a flashpoint in the uprising that began in March 2011 and has left thousands dead.
That follows reports that at least 70 people were killed Thursday, the LCC said.
CNN cannot independently confirm reports of violence or casualties as Syria has limited access by international journalists.
Al-Assad said his country’s opposition movement has failed to duplicate the kinds of mass protests that have unfolded in other nations since the Arab Spring began more than a year ago, according to a Turkish newspaper.
“They wanted to bring people out into the streets in large numbers just like in Egypt and Tunisia,” al-Assad said in the latest installment of an interview published Thursday in the newspaper Cumhuriyet. “However they were not successful.”
CNN’s Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.