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Mission 'nearly impossible': Syria envoy downbeat on new job

Diplomatic attempts to end the conflict in Syria are "nearly impossible" and not enough is being done to end the fighting, the new U.N. and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said in an interview broadcast on Monday.

"I know how difficult it is -- how nearly impossible. I can't say impossible -- nearly impossible," Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat, told the BBC. "And we are not doing much. That in itself is a terrible weight."


David Karp / AP

Lakhdar Brahimi, newly-appointed Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, arrives at a meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York City on Friday.

Brahimi replaced Kofi Annan as the United Nations and Arab League joint special representative on Syria at the end of August. Annan stepped down after blaming "finger-pointing and name-calling" at the U.N. Security Council for hampering efforts to find a breakthrough in the conflict.

Around 20,000 people have been killed during a 17-month uprising against Syria's President Bashar Assad.

Brahimi said he was "scared of the weight of responsibility" on his shoulders and was aware that not enough is being done to end the violence through diplomacy.

"People are already saying 'People are dying and what are you doing?' And we are not doing much. That in itself is a terrible weight," he told the BBC. 

Rebels hit Syrian army headquarters in Damascus

Brahimi said he felt like he was "standing in front of a brick wall", looking for cracks that may yield a solution. 

President Bashar Assad spoke to a pro-government Syrian TV station Wednesday and said the situation is "better" , but his troops need more time to "win the battle". ITV's John Ray reports.

"I'm coming into this job with my eyes open, and (with) no illusions," he said. 

China against ‘safe zone’
Meanwhile, in an indication of what Brahimi is up against, China's top newspaper said that a Turkish proposal for a Syrian "safe zone" under foreign protection for civilians fleeing intensifying violence there would not help resolve the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country. 

The battle for Aleppo: My 18 days with the Syrian rebels

China has repeatedly condemned any plan which hints at outside interference in the Syrian crisis or proposes "regime change." Both China and Russia have vetoed proposed U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to put pressure on Assad. 

Turkey fears a mass influx of refugees similar to the flight of half a million Iraqi Kurds into Turkey after the 1991 Gulf War. 

But the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, said safe zones would not work. 

"The contributions of countries which neighbor Syria to appropriately looking after refugees deserves support, and it is understandable they are coming up with ideas to lessen the pressure on themselves," it wrote. 

"But setting up 'safe zones' in Syria is not a good policy. As UNHCR chief António Guterres has clearly stated, the lessons from history show so-called 'safe zones' can provide next to no real protection for refugees." 

Rebels claimed they shot down a Syrian government helicopter that crashed during fighting in the country's capital. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

France has supported Turkey's call for a safe zone and pressure for action has increased after the U.N. refugee agency said last month that Syria's exodus was accelerating. 

Assad stays cool amid reported slaughter on the bread lines

Up to 200,000 people could settle in Turkey if the conflict worsens, according to the UNHCR. 

Credible protection for "liberated" areas would require no-fly zones patrolled by foreign aircraft, but there is no chance of securing a U.N. Security Council mandate for such action, given opposition from veto-wielding members Russia and China. 

The People's Daily said any efforts to help alleviate the problem must respect Syria's sovereignty and independence. 

"Humanitarianism must not be politicized and nor should it be militarized," it wrote. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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