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Brahimi: 'Cease-fire not a blueprint for peace'

UN Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday. He used the occassion to reiterate his desire for both sides in the country's conflict to declare a 'unilateral ceasefire'.

Syrian President Bashar Assad met with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus on Sunday, state television reported.

Following the talks, Brahimi told reporters that he urged both sides to "declare unilateral cease-fires" during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins at dusk on Thursday.

"I appeal to everyone to take a unilateral decision to cease hostilities on the occasion of Eid al-Adha and that this truce be respected from today or tomorrow," Brahimi said.

The envoy added the ceasefire was his "personal initiative, not a blueprint for peace."

"This is a call to every Syrian, on the street, in the village, fighting in the regular army and its opponents, for them to take a unilateral decision to stop hostilities," he said on his second mission to Damascus since taking up the envoy position in September.

Brahimi added he had made contact with political opposition leaders both inside and outside Syria and armed groups within the country. "We found them to be very favorable" to the proposal of a ceasefire, he said.

"We will return to Syria after the Eid and if calm really takes hold during the feast, we will continue to work on ending the 19-month conflict," Brahimi added.

Opposition talks

Syria's foreign ministry announced that Brahimi and Muallem discussed "a halt to end the violence … in order to prepare for a global Syrian dialogue, free of any foreign intervention."

"Such dialogue is the only way to emerge from the crisis," it said.

Also participating in the meeting, Hassan Abdul-Azim, head of the opposition National Coordination Body, told the news agency dpa that the situation in "Syria has reached a dangerous level of violence which poses a threat to the independence and sovereignty of the country."

Failed ceasefires

As the Arab League envoy met with the Syrian president, an explosion hit the Old City quarter of Bab Touma in Damascus. At least 13 people were killed and dozens of civilians wounded.

The explosion targeted a police station in the neighborhood, he said, which is a popular area for shoppers and is inhabited mainly by a Christian minority.

An official for the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described the blast as "strong," adding that "ambulances and police cars were rushing to the area."

Brahimi has said on past occasions there is little hope his peace efforts will succeed, as fighting between troops loyal to Assad, and those seeking his overthrow kill dozens of people every day.

Syria has so far provided no response to Brahimi's cease-fire plan, but has hinted that it wants guarantees that rebel forces would mirror the response of Assad's forces.

jlw/mkg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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