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Envoy seeks a cease-fire during Muslim holiday
Calls on Assad regime to commit
BEIRUT — The international envoy to the Syrian conflict on Wednesday called on President Bashar Assad's regime to take the lead in implementing a cease-fire during a major Muslim holiday later this month.
Lakhdar Brahimi said rebel representatives have assured him they also will observe the truce if the government takes the first step.
"The Syrian people are burying hundreds of people each day, so if they bury fewer people during the days of the holiday, this could be the start of Syria's return from the dangerous situation that it is continuing to slip toward," he told reporters in Beirut.
Mr. Brahimi's push to get Mr. Assad and rebels seeking to topple him to stop fighting for the four-day Eid al-Adha feast set to begin Oct. 26 reflects how little progress international diplomacy has made in stopping 19 months of deadly violence in Syria.
Unlike his predecessor as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, Mr. Brahimi has said he has no grand plan to end Syria's civil war. Instead, he presented the truce as a "microscopic" step that would alleviate Syrian sorrow temporarily and provide the basis for a longer truce.
Even a short-term cease-fire faced hurdles. Both sides in the past have verbally signed on to cease-fires only to then blatantly disregard them.
And before Mr. Brahimi spoke, Syria's government dismissed the plan, saying the rebels lack a unified leadership to sign the truce.
"There is the state, represented by the government and the army on one front, but who is on the other front?" asked an editorial in the Al-Thawra daily.
The scores of rebel units fighting a brutal civil war against the regime have no single leader, and many don't communicate with each other.
Mr. Brahimi spoke after meetings with top Lebanese officials as part of a regional tour. He said all countries must work to stop the bloodshed by halting arms shipments so the conflict doesn't spread.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are sympathetic to the rebels, and are believed to be facilitating their acquisition of weapons or arming them directly. Iran and Russia are Mr. Assad's biggest supporters, and provide the Syrian military with most of its advanced weapons.
"These countries need to realize, as we heard today in Lebanon, that it is not possible that this crisis will stay inside the Syrian border forever," Mr. Brahimi said. "Either it has to be taken care of or it will spread and spill over and consume everything."
Rebel leaders were not immediately available for comment on the proposed truce.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the government was waiting for Mr. Brahimi to come to Damascus to brief officials there on the results of his tour.
The regime would welcome any "constructive initiative," Mr. Makdessi said in a statement released Wednesday by the state news agency.
It was unclear if Mr. Brahimi would travel to Damascus from Beirut.
Activists say more than 33,000 have been killed since Syria's uprising started in March 2011.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolgu said his country supports a holiday cease-fire, but was skeptical that it would lead to a longer truce without an international force to make it "sustainable."
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