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Syrian peace envoy sees little change

Jan. 9, 2013 at 12:00 PM

LONDON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Reform initiatives presented by Syrian President Bashar Assad have done nothing to change the situation in Syria, the top peace envoy said.

Foreign governments have thrown support behind a Syrian opposition movement as civil war in the country descends on Damascus.

Assad, in a speech last weekend, said the end of fighting in his country would end once foreign powers stop funding "terrorist groups" in his country. A national dialogue would ensue once the fighting stops, he said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Assad's speech suggested he's lost touch with reality. Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat serving as a Syrian peace envoy, told the BBC that Assad's speech was nothing new.

Assad in early 2012 pushed for a new constitution and Parliament. Brahimi, however, said those early reforms didn't bring "one iota" of change to the country.

Brahimi added that Assad lost an opportunity to bring about "real change" in the country.

Nuland confirmed that U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford met in Jordan with "a number of opposition figures" who seek an end to Assad's leadership.

The United Nations estimates that at least 60,000 people have died as a result of conflict that began in early 2011.

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