Brahimi eyes new U.N. envoy role in Syria, dropping Arab League - envoys

UNITED NATIONS Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:39am BST

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr (not in picture) during their meeting in Cairo February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr (not in picture) during their meeting in Cairo February 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N.-Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi hopes to revamp his role as an international peace mediator in the Syrian conflict as a United Nations envoy without any official link to the Arab bloc, U.N. diplomats said on Tuesday.

Brahimi has become increasingly frustrated with the league's moves to recognize the Syrian opposition, which he feels has undermined his role as a neutral mediator, diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"The joint special representative feels that the Arab League approach makes it difficult for him to carry out his mandate," a diplomat said.

"He feels that it would be best to be associated only with the United Nations at this point to ensure his neutrality."

Another U.N. diplomat confirmed the remarks. There have been rumours circulating for weeks that Brahimi might resign, though diplomats said his preference was to remain involved in Syrian peace efforts through the United Nations, an organization he has worked with for decades.

Brahimi will present an update to the U.N. Security Council on Friday about the situation in Syria's two-year-old civil war, which the U.N. says has claimed more than 70,000 lives.

"We expect Brahimi to offer another bleak report," a diplomat said.

The Arab League has suspended Syria's membership and last month invited opposition leaders Moaz Alkhatib and Ghassan Hitto to attend a summit in his place.

The Syrian National Coalition, an opposition bloc recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative for conflict-torn Syria, opened its first embassy in Qatar last month in a diplomatic blow to President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad said earlier this month that "the Arab League itself lacks legitimacy."

Daily death tolls in Syria of around 200 are not uncommon, monitoring groups say. More than a million refugees have fled the country and the Syrian Red Crescent says nearly 4 million have been displaced internally.

Diplomats said Brahimi has grown extremely frustrated at the inability of the Security Council to unite behind his calls for an end to the violence and a peaceful political transition. His predecessor, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, voiced similar frustration when he resigned last August.

The 15-nation Security Council has been deadlocked since the start of the conflict, with Assad's close ally Russia, with the aid of China, using its veto power to block any condemnations or attempts to sanction Assad's government.

Syria's conflict started with peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule that were violently suppressed. An armed struggle ensued.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau)

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