Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi appointed new UN Syria envoy

Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi is the new UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, officials have confirmed.

New UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
New UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi

The United Nations has confirmed that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will become the new international mediator on Syria.

The 78 year old will succeed Kofi Annan, who resigned earlier this month after his six-point peace plan failed to achieve a meaningful ceasefire.

Brahimi said the international community cannot afford to turn its back on the war-torn country.

"The UN, and I suppose the Arab League as well, simply cannot just say 'this is a difficult job, let's look away'," Brahimi said.

China was the first nation to give its reaction, promising to "co-operate positively" with Brahimi.

Brahimi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has vast experience of handling conflict-stricken states.

He was a UN envoy in Afghanistan before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Representing the Arab League, Brahimi helped end the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, negotiating with the Syrian government of the time.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby back Brahimi's appointment, UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said, adding that achieving a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis remained a top priority for the UN.

Diplomats said all Security Council members supported the appointment of Brahimi.

UN officials said he was expected to arrive in New York next week to meet Ban and discuss plans for a fresh approach to Syria.

However, fighting has continued unabated in the northern city of Aleppo and the capital, Damascus.

Explosions were heard in a number parts of the Syrian capital overnight.

In Aleppo, government troops repulsed attacks by rebel forces near the airport on Friday, Syria's state-run media said.

Rebel commanders also said they were fighting near the airport, telling the New York Times that their fighters had advanced to within metres of the airport fence.

The claims have not been verified independently.

Meanwhile, at least 60 bodies have been found in a suburb of Damascus, activists say, following what the opposition described as a "massacre" by government forces.

A poor-quality video posted online showed what appeared to be the charred remains of dozens of people, many with their hands tied behind their backs.

Activists said the bodies were found on Thursday at a rubbish dump outside Qatana, south-west of the capital.

Activists said an estimated 200 people were killed across Syria on Thursday, as clashes between troops and rebels continued.

The death toll included the 60 reportedly found at Qatana. Activists said they were still trying to find out who the victims in Qatana were and what happened.

They believed government forces had executed the victims before setting their bodies alight, they said.

It is impossible to verify the activists' reports of the alleged massacre, as international media cannot report freely in Syria.

The discovery came as the UN announced the formal end of its observer mission.

The current president of the UN Security Council, Gerard Araud, said the conditions required to extend the mission's mandate beyond midnight on Sunday - a halt to the government's use of heavy weapons and a significant reduction in violence - had not been met.