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New Syria Envoy Fears Task 'Nearly Impossible'


Rebel fighters run for cover after government forces fired a mortar in the El-Amreeyeh neighborhood of the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Rebel fighters run for cover after government forces fired a mortar in the El-Amreeyeh neighborhood of the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo.

The new United Nations-Arab League envoy on the Syrian conflict says he fears it will be "nearly impossible" to achieve a diplomatic solution to the 17-month-old conflict.

In an interview with the BBC, Lakhdar Brahimi said it was a "terrible weight" to be ineffective as Syrians continue to die.

Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, was appointed after his predecessor, Kofi Annan, resigned in August, saying that differences among major powers on the UN Security Council was preventing agreement on a unified international response to the conflict.

Also, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the organization's new president is beginning a three-day trip to Syria aimed at improving the ability of international aid workers to reach civilians in the war-torn country.

The ICRC said President Peter Maurer plans to meet in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials on September 4 to discuss what the Geneva-based agency said was "the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Syria.

The Red Cross said he is expected to push for better access for aid workers to civilians affected by the conflict, and for aid worker visits to detainees.

It will be the first visit to Syria for Maurer, who took over the presidency of the independent agency from Jakob Kellenberger on July 1.

Rising Fatality Rate

Syrian opposition activists say a Syrian government warplane bombed a building in a rebel-held town in northern Aleppo Province, killing at least 18 people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several women and children were among those killed by the raid in the town of Al-Bab.

No independent confirmation of the death toll was available.

The Observatory also said a car bomb that exploded on September 3 on the outskirts of Damascus caused casualties.

It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or injured in the blast.

Syria's state-run news agency SANA blamed the bombing on a "terrorist group."

The London-based Observatory said about 5,000 people had been killed in the conflict in August, when government forces began escalating the use of air strikes to crush the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The group estimates some 26,000 people have been killed since the Syrian revolt erupted 17 months ago.

The United Nations' children's organization UNICEF has put the death toll for the past week at 1,600, the deadliest seven days since the uprising began last year.

UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick did not immediately explain how he arrived at the figure.

But there have been many reports from activists and witnesses of civilians killed in air strikes that hit homes or residential areas.

The civil war witnessed a major turning point in August when Assad's forces began widely using air power for the first time to crush the revolt.

The fighting also reached Syria's largest city, Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet for most of the 17-month-old revolt.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP,dpa, and AFP

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