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Envoy warns Syria could turn into Somalia

BEIRUT -- The UN-Arab League envoy for Syria warned yesterday that the country could become another Somalia, where al-Qaida-linked militants and warlords battled for decades after the ouster of a dictator, if the civil war is not ended soon.

Battles between regime forces and Syrian rebels left more than 140 people dead across Syria yesterday, while the brother of Syria's parliament speaker was gunned down in Damascus, the latest victim of a wave of assassinations targeting high-ranking supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime.

Among the dead were at least 13 people who died in a series of explosions in Damascus, targeting impoverished districts of the capital. Dozens of others were wounded, activists said.

The violence aroused new concern about the faltering diplomatic efforts to try to end the conflict, with the UN political chief warning that the Syria crisis risks "exploding outward" into Lebanon, Turkey and Israel.

Britain's Prime Minister Douglas Cameron offered the latest long shot -- that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the fighting. But there has been no sign the embattled Syrian leader is willing to step down as part of a peaceful transition to save the country. Assad has vowed to militarily crush the nearly 20-month old rebellion against his rule, and aides say a new president will be chosen only in elections scheduled for 2014.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi who, like his predecessor Kofi Annan, has been unable to put an end to the conflict, warned the civil war could spiral into new levels of chaos.

"The situation in Syria is very dangerous," Brahimi said in remarks published in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. "I believe that if the crisis is not solved . . . there will be the danger of Somalization. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of warlords and militias."

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