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UN Peace Envoy Brahimi in Lebanon as Syrians Await Visit

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations peace envoy, met Lebanese President Michel Sleiman today as Syria said any initiative to resolve the crisis requires the commitment of both sides.

Brahimi arrived from Cairo and will travel on to Jordan, the official National News Agency said. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government says it also expects him to visit Damascus. While in Lebanon, the envoy was due to see Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a close Syrian ally, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Brahimi’s visit came after Syria’s opposition welcomed his proposal for a halt in fighting during Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar.

“We welcome any end to the killing of Syrian civilians, but all responsibility falls on the regime regarding this,” Abdelbaset Sieda, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council, told Al Arabiya television in an interview. “If the regime stops the shelling, normally, the defensive acts will cease in turn.”

Brahimi’s travels follow a series of gloomy pronouncements from the Algerian UN official about the 19-month conflict, which the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says has claimed more than 30,000 lives. Brahimi has called the conflict a civil war, said the destruction wrought is becoming “catastrophic,” last month described his mission as “difficult” and said the violence was “extremely bad and getting worse.”

Fewer Buried

Speaking today, Brahimi said members of the opposition he’d talked to are ready to respond to the cease-fire call if the Syrian government halts the use of force. “If fewer people are buried during the holidays then this could be a beginning” of an end to the Syrian violence, he told reporters in Beirut.

Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for Syria’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement to the official Syrian Arab News Agency that “any initiative, regardless of its type, requires commitment by all sides in order for it to succeed.”

Makdissi said Syria is awaiting Brahimi’s arrival “to learn about the results of his recent visits to a number of countries, including countries that have influence over armed groups.” He said he hoped the UN envoy “will bring from these countries something to lead to the success of any constructive initiative,” SANA said.

Rebels shot down a helicopter in Idlib, northern Syria, today, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees in Syria. At least 122 people have died across the country today, according to an e-mail from the activist group.

The pro-government Al-Watan newspaper said authorities have beefed up security measures around government buildings in Damascus, adding cement blocks around the building housing SANA and the Damascus governorate. The opposition uses bombs to attack official buildings.

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