"The situation in Syria is extremely bad and getting worse," veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council.
"It is a threat to the region and a threat to peace and security in the world," Brahimi said.
He told the closed-door council meeting -- his first since taking over for former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan Sept. 1 -- that torture of detainees was "routine," food shortages were growing and about 1.5 million people had left Syria, two diplomats present at the briefing told The Wall Street Journal.
He also said the Assad regime alleges 5,000 foreign fighters are in Syria as part of a "foreign conspiracy," the diplomats said.
"There is a stalemate -- there is no prospect today or tomorrow to move forward," Brahimi told reporters.
But "now that I have found out a little bit more about what is happening in the country and the region, I think we will find an opening in the not-too-distant future," he said.
Council diplomats told The New York Times Brahimi told them he found Assad, who he met with last week, has no interested in carrying out serious reforms, wanting instead to return to "the old Syria."
"I refuse to believe that reasonable people do not see that you cannot go backward, that you cannot go back to the Syria of the past," Brahimi said at the news conference. "I told everybody in Damascus and elsewhere that reform is not enough anymore, what is needed is change."
In northern Syria, regime warplanes bombed the city of Aleppo, killing at least 15 people, including three children from one family, the British-based Observatory for Human Rights opposition group said.
Fighting was also reported around Damascus, Homs and elsewhere across the country.
Activists reported deaths of at least 30 people across the country.
Longtime Assad supporter Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told CNN in an interview broadcast Monday night the Syrian fighting must stop and dialogue must begin.
"We must all say enough of this violence, right now," Ahmadinejad said, adding he was working to organize a group to bring the two sides together.
"We do believe that freedom, the right to choose, the right to vote, respect and justice is the fundamental right of all people," he said. "All people must obtain these rights. No one has the right to restrict a people and nation."