U.N. en­voy wor­ried af­ter meet­ing with As­sad

Lakhdar Brahimi un­able to do much to end con­flict.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Ben Hub­bard SANA / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

BEIRUT — The in­ter­na­tional en­voy to Syria said af­ter talks with the coun­try’s leader Mon­day that the sit­u­a­tion was “wor­ry­ing” and gave no in­di­ca­tion of progress to­ward a ne­go­ti­ated so­lu­tion for the civil war.

Lakhdar Brahimi’s mis­sion came as ac­tivists re­ported in­tense fight­ing in the province of Hama, where anti-government gun­men en­tered the pre­dom­i­nantly Alaw­ite town of Maan. Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s regime is dom­i­nated by mem­bers of his mi­nor­ity Alaw­ite sect, an off-shoot of Shi­ite Is­lam, while most of the rebels are Sunni Mus­lims.

Brahimi said he and As­sad ex­changed views on the cri­sis and dis­cussed pos­si­ble steps for­ward, which he did not dis­close. He spoke briefly to re­porters af­ter meet­ing the Syr­ian leader at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Da­m­as­cus.

“The sit­u­a­tion in Syria is still wor­ry­ing and we hope that all the par­ties will go to­ward the so­lu­tion that the Syr­ian peo­ple are hop­ing for and look for­ward to,” Brahimi said.

Syria’s state news agency quoted As­sad as say­ing his government sup­ports “any ef­fort in the in­ter­est of the Syr­ian peo­ple which pre­serves the home­land’s sovereignty and in­de­pen­dence.”

Brahimi has ap­par­ently made lit­tle progress to­ward bro­ker­ing an end to the con­flict since start­ing his job in Septem­ber, pri­mar­ily be­cause both sides ada- mantly refuse to talk to each other.

The government de­scribes the rebels as for­eign-backed ter­ror­ists set on de­stroy­ing the coun­try. The op­po­si­tion says that forces un­der As­sad’s com­mand have killed too many peo­ple for him to be part of any so­lu­tion.

Ac­tivists say more than 40,000 peo­ple have been killed since the upris­ing be­gan in March 2011.

Brahimi’s two-day visit was to end later Mon­day. It is his third to Da­m­as­cus as an en­voy of the United Na­tions and the Arab League.

The se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Da­m­as­cus and else­where in the coun­try has de­clined since Brahimi’s pre­vi­ous vis­its. In­stead of fly­ing in to the Da­m­as­cus In­ter­na­tional Air­port as he did on ear­lier vis­its, Brahimi drove to Da­m­as­cus over land from the Le­banese cap­i­tal Beirut be­cause of fight­ing near the Da­m­as­cus air­port.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights quoted ac­tivists in the cen­tral city of Homs as say­ing that six rebels died in two neigh­bor­hoods Sun­day night af­ter in­hal­ing white smoke that came out of shells fired on the area.

“We de­mand that an in­ter­na­tional team be sent to the area to in­ves­ti­gate the type” of the shells used, said Ob­ser­va­tory chief Rami Ab­dul­Rah­man.

Ama­teur videos re­leased by ac­tivists showed men in hospi­tal beds suf­fer­ing breath­ing prob­lems as doc­tors placed oxy­gen masks on their faces. Some of them coughed strongly as they tried to breath.

“At first, the smell was strong. Then lit­tle by lit­tle, it got weaker,” a man who was iden­ti­fied as a rebel in the area said in the video. “The smell was like hy­drochlo­ric acid, and peo­ple started chok­ing and I wasn’t able to breath.” He added.

“My eyes hurt and burned, my head started hurt­ing, I wasn’t able to breathe. I just want to breathe clean air,” said the man who closed his eyes and said he was hav­ing dif­fi­culty see­ing be­cause of the at­tack.

The videos ap­peared gen­uine and cor­re­sponded to other re­port­ing on the events de­picted.

Lakhdar Brahimi (left), the United Na­tions Arab League deputy to Syria, meets with Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad in Da­m­as­cus on Mon­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.