Middle East

Syria conflict worsening, says UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi

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Media captionLakhdar Brahimi: "The situation is extremely bad and getting worse"

The situation in Syria is "extremely bad and getting worse", UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said.

He spoke after briefing the Security Council about his first trip to Syria since taking the post on 1 September.

Mr Brahimi said he would return soon, but admitted he did not have a full plan on how to bring peace to Syria.

The statement comes as violence continues across the country. Activists said the government was bombing parts of the second city, Aleppo.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, Mr Brahimi said: "There is no disagreement anywhere that the situation in Syria is extremely bad and getting worse, that it is a threat to the region and a threat to peace and security in the world."

He said there was "no prospect for today or tomorrow to move forward".

But he added: "I think that we will find an opening in the not too distant future." Mr Brahimi said he believed "reasonable people" would know that they cannot go backwards.

The BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN says Mr Brahimi's mission to forge a political solution seems almost impossible, with the two parties intent on fighting rather than talking, and the Security Council deeply divided.

The UN says more than 20,000 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in Syria in March 2011. Activists put the death toll as high as 30,000.

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Media captionSyrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad: Damascus is carrying "a message of peace"

Also on Monday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad blamed the violence on foreign-backed "terrorist groups".

He told the BBC that Syria was carrying "a message of peace and national reconciliation" to the UN's General Assembly, which starts its annual debate on Tuesday.

Call for truce

On Monday, the Local Co-ordination Committees, an opposition activist network, reported that at least 40 people had died in fighting, including 13 in Aleppo.

The group said the victims included three children from one family killed in air strikes in the central district of Maadi.

Battles also raged overnight in the western districts of Jamilia, Bustan al-Qasr, Furqan and Zabdiya, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group. The army also shelled rebel positions in Marjah and Tariq al-Bab, it added.

The state news agency Sana said the army had "cleansed" parts of the Arqoub, Jadida, Suleiman al-Halabi and Karm al-Jabal areas of Aleppo on Monday. Troops seized ammunition, dismantled explosive devices and "killed a large number of terrorists", it added.

Image caption Syrian government forces are attempting to regain control of opposition-held areas of Aleppo

A five-year-old girl and a man were killed during the bombardment of the southern town of Dael, in Deraa province, the Observatory reported. Six soldiers also died when a bomb exploded beside a lorry transporting them in Deraa.

Clashes between government forces and rebels were also reported in the north-eastern and north-western districts of the capital, Damascus.

More than 260,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries, the UN says. There are also thought to be more than 1.2 million internally displaced people, and 2.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Security Council has so far been unable to reach agreement on how to respond to the crisis, with Russia and China blocking three Western-backed resolutions seeking to pressure President Assad to end the violence and begin talks with the opposition.

On Sunday, representatives of 20 opposition parties tolerated by the authorities attended a conference in Damascus where they called on both sides to end the violence immediately.

Raja al-Nasser, one of the organisers of the Syria Salvation Conference, called for an "immediate halt to the shooting, a halt to the brutal and barbaric shelling, a truce and a pause for the fighters".

A truce could "open the way for a political process... which guarantees a radical political change, an end to the current regime and a serious and genuine democracy," he said.

The appeal was dismissed by the rebel Free Syrian Army, which said the meeting was a "silly plot to mislead the international community to think there is a negotiation in place".