Brahimi to be new Syria envoy: diplomats

By AFP
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By AFP

8/10/2012 2:00:01 AM -

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran diplomat and former Algerian foreign minister, is expected to be named as the new UN-Arab League envoy to Syria in place of Kofi Annan, diplomats said Thursday.

Negotiations are still going on over the envoy's role and how the United Nations will operate in Syria amid the intensifying civil war. The mandate of the UN mission in the country ends on August 20.

An official announcement of the appointment of the 78-year-old Brahimi is expected to be made early next week, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity as talks continue.

"We are certain it will be Brahimi," said one UN diplomat.

"He is the choice of the UN secretary general and his name will be announced next week as long as he does not pull out," added another.

Annan, a former UN secretary general, said he is leaving because of the lack of international support for his efforts to end the 17-month Syria conflict, in which rebels say more than 20,000 people have been killed.

He is to carry on working until August 31.

Brahimi was the UN envoy in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks and in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Brahimi was Algerian foreign minister from 1991 to 1993, and he helped end Lebanon's civil war in the late 1980s as an Arab League envoy.

With the failure of Annan's six-month campaign to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to carry out his six-point peace plan, there is now debate among key players over the role of the new envoy.

Annan and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have made it clear that they believe divisions among the major powers on the UN Security Council undermined the Annan plan.

"I think there are different models for what an envoy might look like, what kind of background, what kind of role," US ambassador Susan Rice told reporters on Thursday without mentioning who Annan's replacement might be.

"We are open-minded about that. I think we have to be realistic that it is a very difficult job, and Kofi Annan did it admirably and found himself understandably frustrated at the end," Rice added.

A UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Security Council now has to decide whether to stick with Annan's plan.

"For the moment it is all we have, but that does not mean that it cannot be reviewed. There are parts now that are redundant. There could be a new version with a new name," the diplomat said.

"All these elements are now being discussed," the diplomat added.

The badly divided Security Council powers are also discussing the future of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) -- the unarmed observers who were meant to monitor the implementation of Annan's peace plan.

A final decision is expected at a Security Council meeting next Thursday.

The original 300 military observers have been cut to less than 150 because of the worsening violence. They are still carrying out limited patrols but most of their work has now been suspended.

The Security Council gave it a "final" 30-day mandate in a resolution passed last month. Russia, Assad's key ally, says it wants UNSMIS to remain. Western nations say it is too dangerous to keep the observers there.

Russia and China have vetoed three UN resolutions proposed by the Western powers hinting at or threatening sanctions against Assad, fearing that they could lead to a Libyan-style foreign military intervention in Syria.

US ambassador Rice said the mission was unlikely to be extended in its current form.

"As we've said repeatedly, the conditions, particularly the extreme use of violence and heavy weapons by the government, do not permit the UNSMIS monitors -- or any monitors at this point who are unarmed -- to do the job they were sent to do," she said.

"They are hunkered down and have been for many, many weeks," she added.

"So that will not continue as far as we're concerned. We would certainly be willing to entertain other conceptions of a UN presence. There will be a country team.

"There will be a humanitarian presence. Perhaps there will be recommendations that will be more political in nature that we can consider favorably," Rice told reporters.

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