World Bulletin/News Desk
The Algerian diplomat set to become the new international mediator on Syria has said he urgently needs to clarify what support the United Nations can give him and said it is too early to say whether President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran diplomat, was speaking a day after the United Nations confirmed he would take over Kofi Annan's mediation role. Annan, who steps down at the end of the month with his peace plan in tatters, resigned complaining that divisions within the Security Council had hampered his work.
Brahimi made it clear he was acutely aware of the Security Council problem and would therefore need to urgently clarify what support the United Nations can offer him to ensure his mission has a better chance of success.
"When I go to New York I will be asking for lots of things. How to organise ourselves, whom we are going to talk to, (and) what kind of plan we are going to put together," he told Reuters in a phone interview from Paris on Saturday.
"We will start discussing all this, what kind of support I will get and what kind of support I will need to try and do this job," he added.
Brahimi takes over the role - described as an "impossible mission" by a senior French diplomat - at a time when fighting between government forces and rebels is in full swing with no sign of an imminent ceasefire.
More than 18,000 people have been killed and some 170,000 have so far fled the country, according to the United Nations.
Yet the Security Council remains deeply divided with Russia and China vetoing sanctions on Assad, arguing that the West is seeking to topple the Syrian government. The three other permanent members of the Council - the United States, Britain and France - all favour tough action however.
Brahimi said he would head to New York as early as next week to officially accept his mission and will later go on to Cairo to meet Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
He conceded that the problems Annan had faced had given him pause for thought.
"I've been struggling with the very principle of getting on such a mission and I've been discussing with the United Nations, with the Secretary General of the United Nations, how they saw this and how I would fit in," he said.
In a separate interview with France 24 television, Brahimi said he would soon meet with the Security Council.
"We are going to discuss very seriously how they can help," he said. "They are asking me to do this job. If they don't support me, there is no job. They are divided, but surely they can unite on something like this and I hope they will."
Brahimi, 78, served as a U.N. special envoy in Iraq after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, in Afghanistan, both before and after the end of Taliban rule, and in South Africa as it emerged from the apartheid era.
"Too early" to say whether Assad should go
Describing the situation in Syria as "absolutely terrible", he said he would do his best to find a way of ending the 17-month-old conflict.
"The situation in Syria is dire, the situation is absolutely terrible. You see that on your television screen everyday. Villages and cities seem to be flattened from the bombing," he said.
"I could not refuse in a situation like this where hundreds and thousands, maybe millions of people are suffering to try and help no matter how difficult the situation is."
However, he declined to be drawn on whether he thought President Assad should step down - in contrast to Annan who said it was clear the Syrian leader "must leave office".
"It's much too early for me to say. I don't know enough about what is happening," Brahimi said, when asked whether he would be asking Assad to resign.
He had not yet held any talks with Assad but said he would meet him and the troubled country's opposition leaders as soon as the time was right.
"That's another basic principle. Never refuse to talk to anybody, and if for anything, for the understanding of the situation."
Brahimi, a Nobel Peace laureate, will have a new title, Joint Special Representative for Syria. Diplomats said the change was to distance himself from Annan.
He said he'd been in contact with Annan, a former U.N. Secretary-General, in recent months but declined to comment on why Annan's mission failed or whether he'd been advised to avoid undertaking certain initiatives.
"I've been in touch with him (Annan) throughout his mediation and in fact I spoke to him only yesterday," he said.
"I can't comment on his (peace) plan but I can say that we will try to solve this conflict, today is better than tomorrow."
The United Nations confirmed Brahimi was to become the next mediator as U.N. observers in Syria prepared to withdraw due to the violence.
Brahimi said he would draw on his past experience.
"Now we are talking about Syria. What I have seen elsewhere will be useful to remember, maybe there will be ideas on how to do a few things and ideas on how not to do things," he said.
"It is the Syrians who will make peace or war, nobody else and we will be there to try to help them as much as they are willing to accept our help."
The campaign was launched on 145th annivesary of birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the "Father of the Nation".
Afghanistan's new President Ashraf Ghani's has decided to re-open an inquiry into the bank collapse.
The Muslim Brotherhood had earlier turned down an invitation to cooperate with the commission, citing the panel's earlier "disregard" for the group's point of view.
"In the last 24 hours a bomb disposal squad has detonated six bombs in various localities of Peshawar," Shafqat Malik, a senior police officer, told reporters at the site of the blast.
Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona once told reporters he is the "number one fan of the Palestinian people."
According to Bulgarian law, the Turkish language is just an elective course for Turkish citizens and it is banned during the election campaign.
Ahead of a visit to Washington by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday to meet his American counterpart, his ministry said three Rafale fighter jets and an anti-aircraft warship would be sent to the Gulf to support Iraqi government forces against ISIL.
The Taliban claimed responsibility and its reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, called the recent election a "publicity stunt".
A stock exchange official said the package was discovered mid-morning at the building's entrance but did not affect the trading session, which continued without interruption.
Pro-Haftar air commander Saqr al-Garrouchi said the blast had occurred in a residential area near the airbase.
A cyberattack by extremist Buddhists is the latest in series in response to Irrawaddy’s coverage of religious violence.
By omitting Arab names from the list, Israel's Population, Immigration and Border Authority hid the fact that the most popular boy's name in Israel for that year was actually Mohammed.
Paying little attention to the sliding fortunes of Russia's weakening economy, Russian president Vladimir Putin listed Russia's budget triumphs and the growth rates in the industrial and agricultural sectors.
Heavy clashes between ISIL and Kurdish YPG fighters had been continuing on Kobani's eastern and southeastern outskirts for the last 36 hours.
Reformist members demand the resignation of executive office members, the elimination of what they call "crisis elements" and the amendment of the group's internal bylaws.
The three Gulf States collectively pulled their ambassadors from Qatar in March, claiming Doha had violated a 2013 security pact and interfered in their domestic affairs.