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Syria

Syria envoy warns of Syrian 'hell' at Moscow talks

The international community's envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has stressed the need for political dialogue between the government and rebels. Moscow has called the Syrian opposition’s refusal to hold talks "a dead end."

UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the unacceptable alternative to political engagement in Syria was "hell."

Brahimi warned that, without a political process, the situation in Syria could become similar to that in Somalia for two decades after that country's government fell in 1991.

Brahimi seeks political solution in Syria

"If the only alternative is hell or a political process, then all of us have to work continuously toward the political process," said the envoy after a meeting on Saturday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The pair announced no breakthrough in aligning Russia's position on Syria with that of Western nations and the Arab League. Moscow has consistently used its permanent status on the Security Council to veto sanctions against Damascus.

Instead, Brahimi warned of the regional implications of further fighting over the capital, Damascus, with the likely refugee crisis that such a scenario might create.

"If you have a panic in Damascus and if you have 1 million people leaving Damascus in a panic, they can go to only two places - Lebanon and Jordan. Neither Lebanon or Jordan can support, without breaking, 500,000 refugees."

Condemnation of opposition

The Russian foreign minister said that a decision announced on Friday by the rebels that they would not attend talks in Moscow was unhelpful.

Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the newly formed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said Russia should instead apologize for not condemning the government over apparent human rights violations.

"We are sure this is a dead-end position which only will lead to degradation of the situation," said Lavrov. The minister also repeated Russia's position that Assad's exit could not be a precondition for a political process.

The diplomatic efforts came as government forces shelled rebel held parts of Damascus suburbs and besieged an area in the southern province of Daraa, regarded as the birthplace of the uprising which first turned violent in March last year.

rc/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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