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Peace envoy Brahimi arrives in Syria as battle rages

Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has arrived in Damascus as the fighting shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes have bombed the town of Maaret al-Numan as the regime tries to regain a key supply road.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (R) welcomes U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi at a hotel in Damascus (Photo: Reuters)

Syrien Bürgerkrieg UN Sonderbeauftragter Lakhdar Brahimi in Damaskus

Peace envoy Brahimi landed in Damascus on Friday for talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, scheduled for the next day. He was also set to talk to President Bashar Assad "very soon" according to local media.

Brahimi appealed to all sides in the conflict to observe a truce over the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, beginning October 26.

"If the cease-fire is implemented, we can build on it and make it a real truce, as well as the start of a political process that would help the Syrians solve their problems and rebuild their country," Brahimi said while visiting Amman.

The call has been endorsed by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as well as by Iranian and Arab League leaders. Brahimi's visit to Syria will be the latest stop of his tour of countries seen as having potential to influence the conflict: Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Jordan.

Meanwhile, rebels accused Syria's air force of dropping cluster bombs on the town's residential areas.

Rescuers quoted by the news agency AFP said air raids on Maaret al-Numan had killed at least 49 people on Thursday. Among them were 23 children who tried to shelter near a mosque.

Last Monday, the Syrian military denied using cluster bombs which many other nations have banned under an international convention.

Fight for fuel and armor

The all-out battle around Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province is focused on the highway and an adjacent army base at Wadi Deif, which is a major storage facility for heavy armor and fuel.

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Jordan overwhelmed by Syrian refugees

The forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad want to regain the route to resupply its units in Aleppo, which have been under rebel fire for three months. Some 250 troops are reported besieged by rebels at Wadi Deif.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted rebels as saying that 2,500 insurgents were preparing for a "final assault" on the base.

AFP said its correspondent in the area had witnessed fighter jets diving from high altitude on the town as helicopter gunships buzzed the area. Rebels had tried to hit the aircraft using machineguns mounted on vehicles.

At the EU summit in Brussels, a draft declaration circulating on Friday said leaders would fully support Brahimi in finding a political solution in Syria. The 19-month conflict has so far claimed an estimated 34,000 lives.

Education and health aid

From Berlin, German Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel announced that Germany would provide a further 27 million euros ($35.2 million) for Syrian civil war refugees.

He said 25 million euros would go to the children's agency UNICEF for hygiene, vaccinations and primary schooling. The remaining two million was for the UNHCR refugee work in Lebanon.

"The situation of many Syrian refugees, especially children, is appalling," Niebel said. He reassured Jordan that it too would continue to receive German aid for keeping its "door open" to refugees from Syria.

Niebel's ministry estimates that 200,000 Syrians have found refuge in Jordan, despite its limited resources, especially its scarcity of water in northern regions.

The United Nations estimates that the conflict has also forced more than 1 million to seek refuge within Syria.

ipj/slk (AFP, KNA, epd, dpa)

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