Brahimi, Assad meet in Damascus

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday to discuss a plan to de-escalate the country's civil war.

"The president expressed his view regarding the current situation and I briefed him on the meetings I had in several capitals with officials from different countries inside and outside the region," Brahimi said following the meeting in Damascus. "I also told him about the steps that in my view need to be taken to help the Syrian people find a way out of this crisis.


Brahimi has previously stated his plan for the country is based on the so-called Geneva communique that was issued in late June by the Action Group for Syria, the U.N. News Service said.

The Geneva communique outlines key steps in a process to end the fighting in Syria where at least 44,000 people, mostly civilians, have died so far.

"The situation in Syria is still worrying and we hope that all parties would adopt a solution that would meet the aspirations of the Syrian people," Brahimi added.

The meeting between Brahimi and the Syrian leader came the day after an Assad regime air attack in the rebel-held northwestern town of Halfaya, about 15 miles from Hama, hit a bakery where about 1,000 people were waiting for bread, witnesses said. Word had spread that a flour shipment had come in from Turkey. The death toll was pegged at 94.


"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," activist Samer al-Hamawi told al-Jazeera Sunday.

In addition to the dead, at least 50 residents were wounded, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Many of the wounded were in critical condition, the Britain-based group said.

Amateur video footage of what activists said was the aftermath of the air attack showed at least five dozen people lying in the bloodied street and amid the rubble of a one-story block building. Several people were wounded, quite a few appeared dead and several bodies were mangled and dismembered.

Motor scooters lay strewn in the dirty street, near people who appeared to have been blown off them.

In one of the videos monitored by United Press International, the cameraman running toward the scene is heard sobbing and saying: "God is great, God is great. It was a war plane, a war plane." Women and children wailed in the background as sirens blared and car horns honked.

A man carried a woman on his back into the street through the ruins, another video showed. One video showed a boy with his feet blown off.


Human Rights Watch previously accused the regime of targeting bakeries. The group warned the regime such targeting of civilians represented war crimes.

The airstrike came a week after anti-regime rebels overran Syrian army positions around Halfaya and gained control of the town as part of a campaign to push into new areas in the 21-month-long revolt against Assad.

Russia, one of Syria's strongest allies, said several countries in the region had offered Assad asylum. But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would not offer him refuge.

At the same time, The Guardian reported Russian military advisers now staffed and provided counsel for Syria's surface-to-air missile systems.

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