Syria doomed to "hell" without political deal: envoy

Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:08pm EST
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By Alissa de Carbonnel and Yara Bayoumy

MOSCOW/AZAZ, Syria (Reuters) - The international mediator touting a peace plan for Syria warned on Saturday of "hell" if the warring sides shun talks, and Moscow accused enemies of President Bashar al-Assad of blocking negotiations.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in Moscow that responsible people inside and outside Syria should "help the Syrians stop their descent into more and more bloodshed, into more and more chaos and perhaps a failed state".

Efforts to find a negotiated solution to a 21-month-old war that has killed some 45,000 people have floundered, with the opposition, buoyed by rebel military advances, demanding that Assad be excluded from power before any talks can proceed.

In a sign that the war may not quickly be won, government forces - in retreat for much of the past few months - scored a victory in the strategically important central city of Homs, where they pushed rebels from a district after days of fighting.

But in the north, Syria's national airline had to cancel a flight from Cairo to Aleppo, according to Egyptian airline officials, due to insecurity at an airport that rebels have declared as a target and where explosions were heard overnight.

Brahimi spent five days in Damascus this week as part of a push to promote a months-old peace plan that calls for a transitional government, without specifying Assad's role.

"If the only alternative is really hell or a political process, then all of us must work ceaselessly for a political process," Brahimi said in Moscow. "It is difficult, it is very complicated, but there is no other choice."

Western and some Arab states that back the revolt are hoping that Russia, Assad's main international protector and arms supplier, will drop its support.   Continued...

U.N.-Arab League peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria speaks during a joint news conference with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow December 29, 2012. Brahimi, the international mediator who has struggled to end Syria's conflict, said on Saturday that the alternative to a political process in the Middle Eastern country is "hell". REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin