Algeria's Brahimi named next UN envoy for Syria

Arab World Materials 18 August 2012 00:23 (UTC +04:00)
Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, 78, has been named the new United Nations special envoy for Syria. The news came as rebels and government troops continued their fighting in Damascus and other key cities Friday.
Algeria's Brahimi named next UN envoy for Syria

Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, 78, has been named the new United Nations special envoy for Syria. The news came as rebels and government troops continued their fighting in Damascus and other key cities Friday, DPA reported.

Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, resigned earlier this month from the role, in frustration with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and with some of the countries with veto power on the UN Security Council. His resignation is effective at the end of August.

The Algerian, who was a confidant of Annan during Annan's tenure as UN secretary general, had been heavily favoured to be the new envoy. He previously served as UN special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Damascus, government helicopters strafed the western district of Mazzah, where rebels and forces loyal to al-Assad had clashed earlier in the day near a military airport, activists reported.

Similar clashes occurred in the capital's southern districts of al-Tadamun and al-Hajar al-Aswad, added the activists.

The bodies of 60 unidentified people were found late Thursday in Qatana, a town located south-west of Damascus, reported the London-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, without providing details.

Activists said some of the dead were summarily executed. The claim could not be independently verified.

In the embattled northern city of Aleppo, near Turkey, several rebel-held districts were pounded by government forces.

"The intensity of the shelling by the regime in Aleppo has increased in the past 24 hours," Abu Omar al-Halabi, a commander in the rebel Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, said.

"The regime troops are using high-calibre shells that can bring down a building of six floors in one shell," he told dpa by phone.

The battle for Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, could decide the course of the 18-month conflict.

The Local Coordination Committees said that 133 people were killed in nationwide violence on Friday.

The latest violence came a day after the UN Security Council ended its observer mission in Syria, which was dispatched in April to monitor a ceasefire, which never held.

An additional 23,000 people have been registered as having fled Syria over the past week, the UN refugee agency says.

Numbers rose sharply, especially in Turkey, as Syrians were fleeing Aleppo, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

In total, 170,000 refugees have been counted in neighbouring countries - 61,000 in Turkey, 47,000 each in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as 15,000 in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Dubai-based broadcaster Al Arabiya TV reported that the rebel Free Syrian Army has received 14 anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but had yet to use them.

The broadcaster based its report on an unnamed Syrian opposition leader based in the United States. It also reported that Saudi Arabia may have funded the acquisition.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are believed to have been arming the rebels in Syria and have repeatedly condemned al-Assad's crackdown on the opposition.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hoped that Syria's crisis must not spill over into neighbouring Lebanon.

"The situation in Syria is very dangerous, and Lebanon must remain balanced," Fabius told reporters in Beirut before flying to Turkey as part of a regional tour.

In Lebanon, the powerful Shiite al-Mokdad clan released 18 of the 40 Syrians it had kidnapped on Wednesday in a bid to secure the release of one of its relatives held by rebels in Syria.

"At this moment, we have halted all operations on Lebanese territory ... because we have a sufficient number of Syrians linked to the Free Syrian Army," said Maher al-Mokdad, a member of the clan.

The Beirut spokeswoman of the International Committee of the Red Cross Samar al-Kadi said on Friday that the family of Hassan al-Mokdad has asked ICRC's help to locate their son.

"We explained to Mokdad family that the ICRC cannot be involved in the negotiation to release kidnapped or detained people, but if it receives a request from the family of a detained or a kidnapped (person) in an area where there is unrest, it can attempt to know where the person is, check on him and visit him if possible or arrange his transfer back to his county," al-Kadi told dpa.

The kidnappings have raised concerns that the Syrian conflict is spilling into Lebanon, which, like Syria, is divided along sectarian lines.

The head of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah denied during a rally in Beirut's southern suburbs that his movement had anything to do with the kidnappings.

"What happened in the past two days is out of Hezbollah and Amal Movements' control ... The situation is spiraling out of control (in Lebanon) due to the media and political chaos," Nasrallah warned.