Syria's Assad receives peace envoy Brahimi
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab news agency SANA shows Syrian president Bashar Assad (R) meeting with the joint UN and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (L) at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, 21 October 2012. EPA/SANA HANDOUT EDITORIAL USESyrian President Bashar al-Assad received on Sunday peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is pressing both sides in Syria's conflict for a truce during a Muslim holiday this week, state television said.
UN and Arab League envoy Brahimi met Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and opposition leaders tolerated by the Assad's regime on Saturday to push for the truce over the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday, beginning on October 26.
The foreign ministry said Muallem discussed with him "a halt to the violence... in order to prepare for a global Syrian dialogue, free of any foreign intervention." "Such a dialogue is the only way to emerge from the crisis," it said.
Their talks were clouded by tensions in neighbouring Lebanon, where opposition leaders and the prime minister linked to the Syrian regime a deadly bombing that killed a top security official.
Also, Muallem complained to Brahimi about regional countries Syria accuses of hosting, arming and training rebels, saying their action was undermining the UN-Arab League envoy's mission.
Syria has repeatedly blamed its neighbour Turkey as well as energy-rich Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting the armed insurgency.
On the ground at least 108 people were killed in violence in Syria on Saturday, 42 of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, as fighting raged on northern battlefields and around Damascus.
Brahimi urges unilateral ceasefires in Syria
Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Sunday urged the two sides in Syria's conflict to declare "unilateral" ceasefires for this week's Eid al-Adha holiday, following talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
"I appeal to everyone to take a unilateral decision to cease hostilities on the occasion of Eid al-Adha and that this truce be respected from today or tomorrow," he said, referring to the Muslim holidays that start on Friday.
The UN-Arab League envoy told reporters that the ceasefire call was his "personal initiative, not a blueprint for peace." "This is a call to every Syrian, on the street, in the village, fighting in the regular army and its opponents, for them to take a unilateral decision to stop hostilities," he said.
Brahimi added he had contacted political opposition leaders inside and outside Syria and armed groups in the country. "We found them to be very favourable" to the idea of a truce, he said.
"We will return to Syria after the Eid (feast) and if calm really takes hold during the feast, we will continue to work" on ending the 19-month conflict, said Brahimi, on his second mission to Damascus since taking up the post in September.
Assad, in the meeting with Brahimi, said he was "open to all sincere efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis on the basis of a rejection of any foreign interference," the state news agency SANA reported.
The president stressed calls for "a halt to terrorism" and "commitment on the part of certain implicated countries to stop harbouring, supporting and arming terrorists" in Syria.
Syrian authorities accused Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of arming the rebels in a conflict that monitors estimate has claimed 34,000 lives since March 2011.