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Syria

Political solution 'still possible' in Syria

Senior diplomats from the US and Russia have said it is not too late to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Their talks came as fighting raged on between government troops and rebels.

Sunday's meeting hosted by the United Nations-Arab League peace envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, in Geneva was aimed at breaching the gap between the US and Russian positions on Syria. Russia, along with China, has used its veto on the UN Security Council to block a series of draft resolutions aimed at increasing the pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Following his talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and US Undersecretary of State William Burns, Brahimi conceded that they had failed to produce a breakthrough.

"All three parties re-affirmed their common assessment that the situation in Syria was bad and getting worse. They stressed that a political process to end the crisis in Syria was necessary and still possible," Brahimi said in a statement. He added that they had looked at ways to “mobilize greater international action” to end the fighting, but he provided no details on what those measures might be.

They agreed that any political solution needed to be based on the main elements of the final statement issued after a conference on Syria involving major and regional powers in Geneva last June. Under Kofi Annan, Brahimi's predecessor as peace envoy, they agreed that a key part of any resolution to the conflict would involve setting up a transitional government in Syria. However, the statement left open what role President Assad might play in the process.

Brahimi also said the Russian and US officials had agreed to meet with him again "in the near future."

As efforts to reach a diplomatic consensus continued, so did the bloodshed in Syria itself.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that rebel forces captured part of a major army base west of the northern city of Aleppo.

Clashes were also reported in some suburbs of Damascus.

The Observatory, which is widely quoted by media reporting on the Syrian conflict, says it gets its information from a nationwide network of activists and medics. It put Sunday's death toll at 41, including 19 civilians.

This, like most figures coming out of Syria, could not be independently confirmed, owing to severe restrictions on journalists reporting in the country.

pfd/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)