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Syria envoy admits he lacks plan to end war

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DAMASCUS — The new United Nations envoy tasked with ending Syria’s civil war summed up his first foray to Damascus Saturday with a startling and frank admission that he still has no plan for stopping the bloodshed which he warned could threaten world peace.

The bleak outlook offered by veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi after three days of meetings with Syrian officials and the opposition underlines just how fruitless diplomatic efforts have been in bringing an end to the deadly 18-month-old conflict.

“I repeat ... I have no plan,” Mr. Brahimi said in Damascus after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in their first talks since the Algerian diplomat took up the job earlier this month that he himself has called “nearly impossible.”

“We, however, will set the plan that we will follow after listening to all internal, regional and international parties, hoping that such a plan will manage to open channels toward ending the crisis,” he added.

Mr. Brahimi faces a monumental task in trying to break through the deadly cycle of violence that activists say has killed at least 23,000 people since the uprising to topple Assad began in March, 2011. Mr. Brahimi, who also served as a U.N. envoy in Iraq and Afghanistan, replaced former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan who left the job in frustration in August after his efforts failed to resolve Syria’s conflict.

Mr. Annan’s six-point peace plan, which included a cease-fire, never gained traction on the ground, and was largely ignored by the government and the rebels before the plan  collapsed.

Activist groups said more than 50 people were killed across the country Saturday in violence centered in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, and the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.

Mindful of the challenges on the ground,Mr.  Brahimi said the crisis in Syria is “very serious and dangerous,” and the gap between the political parties “very wide.” The veteran Algerian diplomat’s visit to Syria began Thursday.

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