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Brahimi meets with Assad, urges religious holiday ceasefire

UN Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi has 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'.

epa03440917 A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab news agency SANA shows Syrian president Bashar Assad (L) receiving the joint UN and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Al Mokdad (R) at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, 21 October 2012. EPA/SANA HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Treffen von Assad und Brahimi

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

Following the talks, Brahimi said he urged both sides in the Syrian conflict to "declare unilateral ceasefires" 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 told reporters.

Opposition talks

Brahimi met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and opposition leaders tolerated by the Assad regime late Saturday who officials said welcomed the ceasefire proposal.

The foreign ministry said Brahimi and Muallem discussed "a halt to end the violence…in order to prepare for a global Syrian dialogue, free of any foreign intervention."

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Bomb hits Christian district of Damascus

"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 news agency dpa, 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 seven people were killed and dozens of civilians wounded, a security official told AFP.

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 "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 ceasefire plan, but has hinted it wants guarantees that rebel forces would mirror the response of Assad's forces.

jlw/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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