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UN envoy calls on China to help end Syria crisis

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has called on China to play an active role in ending the civil war in Syria. Meanwhile, government warplanes continue to bomb the suburbs of Damascus.

Brahimi pushed Beijing on Wednesday to engage more aggressively in the diplomatic effort to end the 19-month crisis in war-torn Syria, days after his truce for the Eid al-Adha holiday collapsed in violence.

"China can play an active role in solving the events in Syria," the UN envoy and former Algerian diplomat said, after arriving in Beijing for talks with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

China and Russia have vetoed three separate UN resolutions aimed at sanctioning the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Those resolutions were drafted and supported by Western and Arab nations.

"China has been playing an important and positive role in pushing for the political resolution to the Syrian issue and will continue to work with the international community," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

China generally opposes international intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries. The Chinese government reportedly fears that Western nations are trying to push through a UN resolution with the goal of overthrowing the Assad regime.

Although China abstained from the March 2011 Security Council vote that empowered NATO to intervene in Libya, Beijing later criticized Western countries for overstepping the UN resolution's mandate and overthrowing the regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Second cease-fire fails

Brahimi met on Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who called on Western countries and regional powers to talk directly to the Assad regime. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that Ankara had given up on dialogue with Damascus.

The UN envoy had managed to convince both the Syrian government and many rebel factions to agree to a cease-fire during the Eid Al-Adha holiday last weekend. But the truce never took hold, with more than 500 people dying in clashes during the aborted four-day cease-fire.

Brahimi's predecessor, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, had tried to implement a cease-fire last spring, which also failed. Annan eventually resigned his post, claiming a lack of international support for his mission.

Syrian warplanes bomb Damascus

Meanwhile, government warplanes continued to bomb Damascus on Wednesday. The air raids, the first of their kind in the capital, began on Tuesday.

"Warplanes carried out five air raids on the farmlands around the towns of Saqba and Douma and smoke was seen rising from the targeted areas," according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group close to the opposition that monitors the violence.

The United Nations estimates that more than 30,000 people have been killed since the unrest began in March 2011. Some 1.2 million Syrians have been internally displaced by the civil war, and at least another 358,000 have fled for neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

slk/hc (AFP, dpa)