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France's Hollande to meet new Syria conflict envoy
PARIS: French President Francois Hollande was due later Monday to meet with the new United Nations peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, Hollande’s office said.
Brahimi, a veteran diplomat troubleshooter, was named on Friday to take over from Kofi Annan after Annan quit because of the lack of international support for his peace plan.
France has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be ousted, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday saying the regime must be
“smashed fast”. Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat, had a run-in with the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) on Sunday over whether it was time for Assad to step down.
In a media interview, Brahimi was reported to have said it was too early for him to follow his predecessor Annan in saying that Assad must leave office, which sparked an angry response from the SNC.
Brahimi later denied he had made the comment and in turn called for the SNC to apologise to him.
Brahimi, who has said he is not confident of being able to restore peace, also warned Sunday that it was now a matter of ending rather than avoiding a civil war in Syria after 17 months of bloodshed.
UN observers meanwhile wound up their troubled Syria mission at midnight on Sunday in the face of the escalating violence and a failure by world powers to agree on how to respond to Assad’s crackdown on a popular uprising.
Annan’s resignation on August 2 sparked a new round of recriminations among the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, with the United States blaming Russia and China for vetoing three separate UN resolutions on the conflict.
Syria’s popular uprising, which began in March 2011, has spiralled into an armed conflict with more than 21,000 deaths over the past 17 months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The UN puts the death toll at 17,000. -- AFP