World Bulletin / News Desk
Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League mediator on Syria, said on Monday he would make his first visit to Damascus since taking the post in a few days and hoped to meet President Bashar al-Assad.
Brahimi, who replaced Kofi Annan as international mediator on Syria this month, told reporters at the Cairo-based Arab League that his assignment was a "very difficult mission but it was not my right to refuse to do what I can to try to help the Syrian people."
He has made similar comments about his mission since he was named as the new envoy. Annan had blamed a U.N. Security Council impasse for hampering his six-month bid to broker peace leading to his decision to step down.
"I will go to Damascus after a few days and I will meet officials and people from civil society and intellectuals in the capital and, God willing, outside the capital," Brahimi said, but did not give specific timings.
Asked if he would meet the Syrian president, Brahimi said: "I hope so but I don't know."
Brahimi made no reference to Iranian reports that he planned to visit Tehran after Syria.
Iran's Mehr news agency quoted on Sunday Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying that Brahimi would visit Tehran, following a phone conversation on Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Brahimi and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby met anti-Assad protesters outside the League headquarters in the centre of Cairo on the edge of Tahrir Square, where demonstrators had gathered to bring down Egypt's Hosni Mubarak last year.
The protesters called for the League and other nations to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, to which Elaraby replied: "We cannot. The nations that can impose a no-fly zone on Syria do not want to do so."
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Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the army's advance, which it said had been backed by Russian warplanes and military helicopters
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