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The state-run news agency SANA said dozens of “terrorists” were killed in Salqin, including some non-Syrian foreign fighters.

A militant group fighting in Syria reported on its website that four members of the Al-Nusra Front were killed in the Salqin battle including a Tunisian. The group has claimed responsibility for several recent suicide attacks in Syria.

Meanwhile, Mokhtar Lamani, who represents special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in the Syrian capital, told The Associated Press in an interview that a solution to the country’s crisis remains very difficult because of the “high level of mistrust between all parties.” Most opposition groups demand Assad’s departure from power, while the regime says its opponents are working as part of a foreign conspiracy.

Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat who previously served as a U.N. envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, waded into Syria’s complicated diplomatic landscape last month when he replaced Kofi Annan, the former U.N. chief whose peace plan for Syria failed to end the violence that activists say has so far killed more than 30,000 people.

Lamani said Brahimi, who visited Damascus last month, will pay a second visit to Syria soon and will tour the country. Asked whether he still sees hope of a political solution in Syria despite the bloodshed, Lamani said: “I think maybe the time will be too long, but I hope (so) … and this is what I am here for because I hope that in the end there would be some light.”

Lamani noted that he had recently visited the central province of Homs and the southern province of Daraa, where he with met representatives of armed groups in the town of Rastan, a rebel stronghold in Homs that was among the first areas to take up arms against Assad’s regime. He did not provide any details of his meetings.

He said that some of the main obstacles to brokering a resolution to the conflict are divisions among rebels and opposition groups. There is a vast array of such groups inside and outside the country, and relations among them have been dogged by infighting and mutual accusations of treachery. The rebels include army defectors and gunmen who work under the rag-tag Free Syrian Army.

“There are so many opposition parties inside and outside Syria in addition to the armed groups,” Lamani said in Damascus. “This is a little bit very dangerous and complicating our mission because of this kind of fragmentation.”

Concerns mounted meanwhile over the damage to Aleppo’s historic center, a UNESCO world heritage strike, after a destructive fire which broke out late Friday. Both activists and government officials have said that damage is immense, but blamed the other side for starting it.

Rami Martini, chief of Aleppo’s Chamber of Tourism, said three historic markets which he identified as Niswan, Darb and Istanbul “were totally burnt and they consist of more than 500 shops.”

Martini, a government tourism official, blamed rebels for the fires in the market, saying opposition forces “hate history.” Some opposition activists have suggested government shelling of rebels in the market may have started the blaze.

The Aleppo bazaar, a major tourist attraction with its narrow stone alleys and stores selling perfume, fabrics and spices, had been the site of occasional gun battles and shelling for weeks. But amateur video posted Saturday showed wall-to-wall flames engulfing wooden doors as burning debris fell away from the storefronts. Activists said hundreds of shops were affected, in the worst blow yet to the city’s historic center.

Aleppo’s walled old city with a medieval covered market, or souk, was recognized by the U.N. cultural agency as a World Heritage site, one of six in Syria.

Martini said the government as well as Arab and international funders spent $300 million to renovate the Aleppo market between 1993 and 2010. “The historical losses in the market are invaluable and the hope is that the market be renovated in the future,” he told The Associated Press by telephone from Aleppo.