Syria envoy calls for political change to end conflict

Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:53pm EST
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By Dominic Evans and Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The international envoy seeking a negotiated solution to Syria's 21-month-old conflict said on Thursday political change was needed to end the violence which has killed 44,000 people.

Speaking in Damascus at the end of a five-day trip during which he met President Bashar al-Assad, Lakhdar Brahimi called for a transitional government to rule until elections and said only substantial change would meet demands of ordinary Syrians.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added to the envoy's call for a peaceful solution when he told a senior Syrian diplomat that only a "broad inter-Syria dialogue and political process" could end the crisis.

Brahimi's push for a transitional government suggested he was trying to build on an international agreement in Geneva six months ago which said a provisional body - which might include members of Assad's government as well as the opposition - should lead the country into a new election.

But the mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have seized the military initiative since the Geneva meeting in June and the political opposition has ruled out any transitional government in which Assad, from Syria's Alawite minority, plays a role.

Rebel fighters resumed attacks on Thursday against the military base of Wadi Deif, which lies next to Syria's main north-south highway linking Aleppo with Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition group which monitors the violence, said rebels also clashed with Assad's forces inside the Minakh air base in Aleppo province after several days of fighting outside its perimeter, although the army still controlled the base itself.

Around the capital, Assad has used artillery and air strikes for weeks to try to dislodge rebels from suburbs which ring the east and south of the city.   Continued...

A Free Syrian Army fighter jokes with a child in the old city of Aleppo December 27, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah