UN names Algerian diplomat as new Syria envoy

UN names Algerian diplomat as new Syria envoy

Deutsche Welle, 17 August 2012

The UN has named Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as its new Syria envoy. The appointment comes as Syria's former premier Riad Hijab visits Qatar, one of the Sunni Muslim Gulf states that backs Syrian rebels.

The United Nations on Friday confirmed that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi has been appointed as the new peace envoy to Syria, some two weeks after the resignation of his predecessor Kofi Annan.

Annan resigned on August 2 as UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, saying that deadlock in the UN Security Council had prevented the implementation of his six-point peace plan. The UN observer mission, which was deployed to monitor the implementation of Annan's aborted plan, is now scheduled to end its operations on Sunday.

With the collapse of the Annan peace initiative, it remains unclear what kind of mandate Brahimi will have in Syria. The 78-year-old served as the UN envoy to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement calling on the Security Council to support Brahimi's mission.

"The secretary general appreciates Mr Brahimi's willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council," the spokesman said.

Syria ex-PM talks regime change

Meanwhile, former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab was in Qatar for talks on the Syrian civil war. His spokesman, Mohamed Atari, said the ex-premier would discuss "efforts of the opposition to accelerate the pace of the downfall of the regime" before returning to Jordan. His stay in Qatar is scheduled to last three days.

Hijab quit Assad's government last week. On Tuesday in Jordan, he said Assad's government had "collapsed militarily, economically and morally" and only controlled 30 percent of Syria's territory.

Battles between Syrian rebels and Assad government forces were reported in parts of Damascus and Aleppo on Friday.

Opposition activists said government helicopters had strafed the city's western district of Mazzah. Clashes had also occurred near a local military airport and in two southern Damascus districts.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 60 unidentified bodies had been found in Qatana, southwest of Damascus. Claims by activists that some had been summarily executed could not be independently verified.

In Aleppo, near Turkey, government artillery pounded several rebel-held districts.

The German news agency dpa quoted a commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, Abu Omar al-Halabi, as saying that "regime troops are using high-caliber shells that can bring down a building of six floors in one shell."

Humanitarian crisis

United Nations aid agencies said Friday that Syrians displaced by fighting were pouring into Turkey and Jordan and that a diarrhea outbreak had hit rural areas near Syria's capital, Damascus.

A World Health Organization (WHO) spokeswoman said health workers in a mobile clinic were treating 61 children of 10 years and younger among 103 cases discovered.

The WHO's director of risk management Richard Brennan, speaking in Geneva, quoted Syrian officials as saying Syria's 17 months of warfare had left 38 hospitals and 149 other clinics "either substantially damaged or destroyed."

The refugee agency UNHCR said 3,500 more Syrians - who had fled Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia since Tuesday - had arrived in Turkey. And from Thursday into Friday 1,000 Syrians had arrived in Jordan.

Turkey's Dogan news agency said another 1,500 were on their way from Azaz, a rebel-held town near Aleppo, which was bombed by Assad's air force on Wednesday with the loss of at least 35 lives.

That raised the registered Syrian refugee total in Turkey to 65,000 and in Jordan to 47,000, the UNHCR said. Within Syria, 1.2 million people remain uprooted.

Emergency food deliveries in Aleppo

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said its supplies had been distributed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to 100,000 people in Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, where Assad's forces and rebels have battled for several weeks.

WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs, also speaking in Geneva, said by the end of September the UN expected to be feeding one million inside Syria.

"At the moment we are nearing our target of feeding 850,000 people in Syria, which was our target for the end of July, but which we did not reach because of the deteriorating security situation," Byrs said.

The British Red Cross said aid workers were at "daily risk" in Aleppo.

"Five Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been killed, and several ambulances have been shot at or stolen since September 2011," the charity said.

The UN puts the death toll in Syria since fighting began in March last year at around 17,000. Syrian activists put the toll at more than 23,000.