Latest U.N. envoy for Syria not optimistic

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PARIS — The new U.N. special envoy to Syria admitted Sunday that he faces a difficult job trying to broker peace in Syria, and said his first task is overcoming divisions within the Security Council that stymied the efforts of his predecessor.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria, said getting the Security Council to speak “with a unified voice” is critical to his mission’s success, but that he has no concrete ideas on how to achieve that.

The former Algerian foreign minister and longtime U.N. diplomat spoke during an interview with the Associated Press at his home in Paris on Sunday.

Russia and China have used their veto power at the Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Mr. Brahimi, who served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the end of Lebanon’s civil war as an Arab League envoy, said Mr. Annan’s mission failed “because the international community was not as supportive as he needed them to be.”

“The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently,” Mr. Brahimi said.

But asked whether he has specific ideas about how to achieve that consensus, Mr. Brahimi simply responded “No.”

“If they spoke in one voice and were clearly supportive of what I will be doing on their behalf, that is what I need,” Mr. Brahimi said in response to what he wants from the Security Council. “Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult.”

Mr. Annan announced earlier this month that he will resign on Aug. 31 as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, after failing to broker a cease-fire as the country descended into civil war.

Activists say about 20,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Meanwhile in Syria on Sunday, Mr. Assad attended prayers in a Damascus mosque to mark the start of a Muslim holiday, his first public appearance since the bombing last month that killed four of his top security officials.

Elsewhere in the country, thousands staged anti-government demonstrations in mosques and cemeteries after special prayers marking Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that ends the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Pious Muslims traditionally visit graves and recite prayers for the dead on the holiday.

Ramadan in Syria was particularly deadly this year as the civil war reached the two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. The Syrian regime has suffered a series of setbacks over the past month that point to a loosening of its grip on the country.

The July 18 rebel bombing of the state security headquarters in the capital was a major blow to Mr. Assad. His brother-in-law was among the four killed officials.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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