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UN: Algeria's Brahimi will replace Annan in Syria

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Aug. 18, 2012, 10:33 a.m. | World — by Associated Press

former Algerian foreign affairs minister Lakhdar Brahimi.
© AP

Associated Press

Associated Press

Former Algerian foreign minister and longtime U.N. diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, known as a strong-willed, independent broker, has agreed to replace former Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria.

Brahimi, who served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, formally accepted the post and will resume efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria's crisis, said Eduardo del Buey, deputy spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

"The violence and the suffering in Syria must come to an end," del Buey said. "The Secretary-General appreciates Mr. Brahimi's willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council."

Annan announced earlier this month that he would resign on Aug. 31 as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, after failing to broker a cease-fire as the country descended into civil war. The U.N. says at least 18,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Brahimi will travel to New York and then Cairo in the coming days.

Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from Paris, Brahimi said "I realize it's an extremely complicated and very, very difficult mission." He said he hopes military intervention isn't necessary, and that talking about a military option is akin to admitting diplomatic failure.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Brahimi's appointment, saying he "will continue the pursuit of an end to the conflict and a peaceful transition in Syria."

"My message to special envoy Brahimi is simple: The United States stands ready to support you and secure a lasting peace that upholds the legitimate aspirations for a representative government of the people of Syria," Clinton said. "And to the Syrian people: you are not alone. The international community remains fully committed to a Syrian-led political transition leading to a pluralistic political system representing the will of the people."

Brahimi, 78, who emerged last week as the leading candidate to replace Annan, brings a long record of working in the Arab and Islamic world. He served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991-93 and joined the United Nations in 1994, where he served in a variety of high-profile posts until he retired in 2005.

As an Arab League envoy, Brahimi helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war.

Several U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Brahimi had delayed taking the job as Syria envoy because he wanted a signal of support from the council. What kind of support Brahimi wanted remains unclear.

Gerard Araud, the French U.N. ambassador and current Security Council president, has called the special envoy post something of an "impossible mission" and said he could understand why someone would take their time before deciding to take it.

Annan said when he announced his resignation on Aug. 2 that the Security Council's divisions prevented the united approach needed to stop the fighting in Syria. Russia and China have used their veto power three times to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against President Bashar Assad's regime.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a written statement Saturday that China welcomed Brahimi's appointment and that his rich diplomatic experience makes him a suitable choice. China reiterated its stance against military intervention and asked Brahimi to find political solutions to end the conflicts.

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