- Associated Press - Monday, September 10, 2012

BEIRUT — The death toll from a car bomb in Syria’s largest city has risen to 30, state media said Monday, as the new international envoy to the country said the Syrian people are desperate to see peace and stability.

Meanwhile, Syria’s most prominent defector said in an interview that aired Monday that he opposes any foreign military intervention in the country’s civil war and that he is confident the opposition can topple President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The Sunday night blast ripped through the northern city of Aleppo, which has become one of the main battlegrounds of the country’s civil war. Activists say at least 23,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

The fight for Aleppo, a city of 3 million that was once a bastion of support for Mr. Assad, is critical for both the regime and the opposition.

Its fall would give the opposition a major strategic victory with a stronghold in the north near the Turkish border. A rebel defeat, at the very least, would buy Mr. Assad more time.

Syria’s state run news agency, SANA, said Monday the death toll has risen to 30 civilians — including women and children – with 64 people wounded.

The blast happened near two hospitals. According to Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Hassan, one of the hospitals, Al-Hayat, was turned into a site for the treatment of government troops shortly after the fighting in Aleppo began in July.

SANA also reported that the blast was caused by a small truck rigged with more than 2,200 pounds of explosives, which left a crater 20 feet deep.

SANA blamed terrorists, the term the regime uses for rebels, for the attack. But there was no immediate claim of responsibility from the rebels or any other group.

On Monday, the new U.N.-Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, said he will travel to Syria this week to meet with regime officials as well as civil society.

“I answer to no one except the Syrian people,” Mr. Brahimi told reporters in Cairo, where he was meeting with Arab League officials and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. “Syrians aspire to peace, stability and to realizing their goals of freedom and political progress.”

Mr. Brahimi, who is tasked with brokering a diplomatic solution to the conflict, replaced former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who stepped down in August in frustration after his six-point peace plan collapsed.

Syria’s most prominent defector, Manaf Tlass, a Syrian general who was the first member of Mr. Assad’s inner circle to join the opposition, said the rebels need weapons, not foreign military intervention.

“The Syrian people must not be robbed of their victory. They must be given support, aid, arms,” he told the French television station BFM.

Gen. Tlass called on outside powers to give the opposition “all the aid and support” needed to topple Mr. Assad.

Foreign military intervention, however, “could not provide a solution” to the conflict, he said. Gen. Tlass’ defection in July was hailed as a resounding triumph by many Syrian opposition activists, but others suspect he is just trying to vault to power. In the weeks after he abandoned the regime, Gen. Tlass began touring regional powers to garner support for the uprising.

“My role is to unify, bring together my people, that is my role,” he said in Monday’s interview.

Gen. Tlass, who is in his 40s, is the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlass, who was the most trusted lieutenant of the late Hafez Assad, the president’s father and predecessor.



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