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New Syria envoy laments 'staggering' state of affairs

The new international envoy to Syria has described the situation in the country as "staggering" and the suffering "immense." Lakhdar Brahimi had already said that brokering a peace deal was "nearly impossible."

Nordrhein-Westfalen/ ARCHIV: Der damalige Sonderbeauftragte der vereinten Nationen fuer Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi beantwortet auf einer Pressekonferenz nach der Aussenministerkonferenz Afghanistan im Wiederaufbau auf dem Petersberg in Bonn die Fragen der Journalisten (Foto vom 02.12.02). Eine Woche nach dem Ruecktritt von Kofi Annan als UN-Sondergesandter fuer Syrien wird der fruehere algerische Aussenminister Lakhdar Brahimi als aussichtsreicher Kandidat fuer die Nachfolge gehandelt. (zu dapd-Text) Foto: Torsten Silz/dapd

Lakhdar Brahimi

Veteran Algerian diplomat Brahimi briefly addressed the UN assembly in New York on Tuesday, with a less-than-optimistic appraisal of the situation.

"The death toll is staggering, the destruction is reaching catastrophic proportions and the suffering of the people is immense," Brahimi said.

The new envoy replaced former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as the mediator for the Arab league and the UN on Saturday. In an interview with the BBC, he expressed deep pessimism about the likelihood of finding a peaceful solution to the armed conflict.

However, Brahimi told the assembly that he was not without hope.

"I am looking forward to my visit to Damascus in a few days time, and ... to all the countries who are in a position to help the Syrian-led political process become a reality."

Armed rebels, bullets in forground

Ban said countries that armed either side were partly culpable

"The future of Syria will be built by its people and none other," the 78-year-old diplomat added. "The support of the international community is indispensable and very urgent. It will only be effective if all pull in the same direction."

‘Spreading of misery'

UN chief Ban Ki-moon told the 193-member assembly that the countries arming both sides in the conflict were guilty of spreading unhappiness.

"Those who provide arms to either side are only contributing to further misery - and the risk of unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads," Ban said.

Representatives of 50 countries met in Berlin on Thursday to discuss Syria's future economy after warfare ends in Syria. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called on members of the Syrian opposition movement represented at the conference to create conditions that would make it easier a for a transitional government to take power.

In Syria itself on Tuesday, the new head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, met with President Assad to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country.

Following their 45 minutes of talks, Syrian state television reported that Assad had pledged his qualified support for the ICRC's activities. The Red Cross described Tuesday's talks as positive.

rc /jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)