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You're reading: Syrian troops battle rebels near Damascus, Aleppo
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Meanwhile, U.N. diplomats in New York said the search was on for another envoy to replace Kofi Annan who gave up trying to broker peace in Syria and who is leaving by the end of the month.

The diplomats said former Algerian foreign affairs minister and longtime U.N. official Lakhdar Brahimi is a strong candidate to take over from Annan. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were authorized to speak to the media.

Annan, a former U.N. chief, announced his resignation last week as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, ending a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire as the conflict in the country descended into a full-out civil war.

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