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Syrian VP calls for national unity government

Syria's vice president has called for a government of national unity to end almost two years of bloodshed. Farouq al-Sharaa also stressed that any solution to the conflict must come from within Syria.

In the interview, published in the Monday edition of the Lebanon daily Al-Akhbar, Sharaa said the situation was going from bad to worse and that Syria needed a "historic settlement" to end the conflict.

"The opposition with its different factions, civilian, armed, or ones with external ties, cannot claim to be the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian People, just as the current rule with its ideological army and its confrontation parties lead by the Baath, cannot achieve change without new partners," Shabaa said.

He argued that a national unity government was the only choice, as 21 months of fighting had shown that neither the government nor the rebels were capable of a military victory.

"The opposition forces combined cannot decide the battle militarily, meanwhile what the [government] security forces and the army units are doing will not reach a conclusive end," the vice president said.

Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim in a mainly Alawite regime, has served in a number of senior posts under both President Bashar Assad, and his father and predecessor, Hafez Assad.

UN chief 'alarmed' by escalation

The idea of bringing the warring parties together in some sort of power-sharing arrangement is not new.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday renewed a call on leading members of the international community "to make every effort to stop the tragic spiral of violence in Syria and urgently to promote an inclusive political process leading to a peaceful political transition."

So far, such efforts have been hampered by divisions in the UN Security Council, with permanent members Russia and China blocking a number of draft resolutions aimed at ramping up the pressure on the Assad regime.

A UN spokesman in New York said Ban was also “alarmed by the continued dramatic escalation of violence in Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire."

The statement referred to reports of an air strike on a Palestinian refugee camp in the south of Damascus that killed at least eight people, which Ban described as a "matter of grave concern," as well as reports of mass killings of Alawite supporters of President Assad in the village of Aqrab last week.

The Security Council was to be briefed on the latest developments in Syria later on Monday.

pfd/hc (dpa, dapd, AFP)