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News Wrap: U.N. Security Council Backs Annan Plan to End Syrian Conflict

March 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.N. Security Council today urged both sides in Syria to seek a way forward. The council issued a unanimous, nonbinding statement. It endorsed proposals by special envoy Kofi Annan, including a ceasefire, guaranteed humanitarian access, and withdrawals of government forces.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to listen.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: This is a positive step. The council has now spoken with one voice. To President Assad and his regime, we say, along with rest of international community, take this path, commit to it, or face increasing pressure and isolation.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Twice before, Russia and China vetoed resolutions aimed at condemning the Assad regime. But they supported today’s statement.
In the presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney picked up new support after winning the Illinois primary on Tuesday. He won the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who urged Republicans to unite behind the frontrunner.
In Arbutus, M.D., Romney said he got the word this morning.

MITT ROMNEY (R): My cell phone rang and I looked at it and it just said Jeb on it. And I picked up the phone and it was Jeb Bush.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY: And he said — and he said — I didn’t even have to ask — he said, “Mitt, I want to let you know I’m endorsing you today.”

And that was good news.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN: At the same time, a senior aide of his generated new criticism that Romney will shed his conservative positions once he has the nomination wrapped up.

Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN, “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

That drew fire from Rick Santorum in Mandeville, La., which holds its primary on Saturday.

RICK SANTORUM (R): You have an opportunity here in Louisiana to make a very clear statement. You’re not looking for someone who is the Etch A Sketch candidate. You’re looking for someone who writes what they believe in, in stone and stays true to what they say.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN: Late today, Romney dismissed any suggestion that he would change his stripes in the fall campaign. He said: “I was a conservative Republican governor and I will be running as a conservative Republican nominee.”

The National Football League came down hard today on the New Orleans Saints over paying bounties for big hits on opposing players. The NFL suspended head coach Sean Payton without pay for the entire 2012 season, an unprecedented step. And the team’s former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, was banned from the league indefinitely.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained his actions in an interview with ESPN.

ROGER GOODELL, National Football League commissioner: It’s more than Sean Payton here. There are hundreds, if not thousands of players, other coaches that this reflects poorly on.

And so, I don’t take any of this lightly. I have spent a great deal of time, a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out the right thing to do. I think we have done our homework here. I have listened carefully. And I have to do what I think is in the best interests of the game long term and the integrity of our league.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A Saints assistant head coach and the team’s general manager will also be suspended for part of the season. And the franchise will pay a $500,000 fine and lose two future draft picks.

On Wall Street, stocks searched for direction, but found little cause for a new rally. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 45 points to close at 13,124. The Nasdaq rose one point to close at 3,075.

The U.S. Senate honored Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski today as the longest-serving woman in congressional history. Fellow senators congratulated Mikulski on her 35-year tenure. She served 10 years in the U.S. House, and is now in her fifth term as a senator. Mikulski is now 75 years old. She said she hopes to be remembered for devotion to duty.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.