UN-Arab League envoy has first meeting with Syrian president since accepting envoy's role amid reports of new killings.
Syrian state television says UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi has met President Bashar al-Assad to discuss efforts to end the country's 18-month-old conflict that activists say has killed more than 27,000 people.
Saturday's meeting was Brahimi's first with Assad since he replaced Kofi Annan as peace envoy two weeks ago, taking on a mission which the veteran Algerian diplomat described as "nearly impossible".
Brahimi is a veteran Algerian diplomat who succeeded Annan following the failure of the former UN chief's six-point peace plan.Assad's forces and the outgunned rebels seeking his overthrow have ignored appeals to end the fighting, which has continued in most of the country's main cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Deir al-Zor.Damascus residents reported hearing heavy overnight bombardment followed by the sound of fighter jets swooping over the capital shortly after 7am, local time (04:00 GMT) on Saturday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the violence, said 160 people were killed in Syria on Friday.
Hassan Abdul-Azeem, a spokesman for Syria's opposition National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change, said a delegation from the group had met Brahimi on Friday to discuss how to resolve the crisis.
"We support Mr Brahimi ... and we will co-operate with him because the violence has reached [unprecedented] levels and the Syrian people are suffering from the killings, destruction and displacement," he said. Abdul-Azeem's bloc, which is tolerated by the Syrian government, includes Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists. "We came to Syria for meetings with our Syrian brothers because there is a big crisis. I think it is getting worse," Brahimi was quoted as saying by Syria's official SANA news agency. Brahimi met Walid Muallem, Syrian foreign minister, after arriving in the country on Thursday. Muallem assured Brahimi of "Syria's full co-operation" and stressed that any initiative must be based on "the interests of the Syrian people and their freedom of choice without foreign intervention", SANA reported. The diplomatic developments came as the army In neighbouring Lebanon the seized a lorry loaded with weapons believed to be heading to Syria. The cache included light arms, hand grenades, rockets, and communication devices, the army said on Friday. Also in Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI started a weekend visit with a call for an end to arms imports to Syria. "Arms imports must stop once and for all, because without arms imports, war cannot continue," he said.