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Middle east

UN’s Brahimi meets Assad in wake of Hama air strike

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-12-24

Special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has met with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus for talks aimed at resolving the country’s bloody civil war, one day after an air strike on a bakery in the central city of Hama province killed dozens.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Monday to discuss a solution to a 21-month-old conflict, which has seen violence rise across the country and the capital.

The veteran Algerian statesman drove to Damascus because of fighting around the city’s international airport made it impossible to fly –a sign of how the conflict is paralysing much of Syria.

FRANCE 24's Adam Pletts reports on Brahimi's visit to Syria

Brahimi told reporters his meeting with Assad dealt with the general conditions in Syria, and the two discussed potential solutions to a crisis that has killed more than 44,000 people, according to activists.

“I told him what I was seeing abroad and about the meetings I had with different officials in the region and abroad,” Brahimi said. “The situation in Syria still is a reason for worry. We hope that all sides work toward the solution, as the Syrian people want.”

FRANCE 24 correspondent Adam Pletts, reporting from Lebanon, described Brahimi’s meeting with Assad as “the latest in a long line of mediation efforts, none of which have really had any success.”

“There are very low expectations of anything concrete coming out of this at the end of the day,” Pletts said.

Killed in bakery line

The trip is Brahimi’s third to Syria in almost as many months. His talks with Assad came one day after a deadly air strike on a bakery in Halfaya, a town under rebel control in Syria’s central Hama province.

“There is no way to really know yet how many people were killed. When I got there, I could see piles of bodies all over the ground. There were women and children,” said Samer al-Hamawi, an activist from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Halfaya. “There are also dozens of wounded people.”

Rebel forces overran Halfaya last week as part of a greater campaign by rebels fighting to topple Assad.

Eyewitness account of air strike on bakery in Syria's Hama province

Another activist said locals were still sifting through the wreckage, trying to tell the dead from the wounded.

More than a thousand people were standing in line at the bakery when the strike hit, activists reported. In a country ravaged by conflict, people wait for hours to buy basics such as bread, which has been made scarce by fuel and flour shortages.

“We hadn’t received flour in around three days so everyone was going to the bakery today, and lots of them were women and children,” a man told reporters on the ground. “I still don’t know yet if my relatives are among the dead.”

New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned army air strikes on bakeries earlier this year, arguing that in some incidents the military was not using enough precision to target rebel sites and in other instances may have intentionally hit civilians.

Date created : 2012-12-23

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