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UN envoy: Syria's civil war worsening

UNITED NATIONS -- Syria's civil war is worsening and there is no prospect of a quick end to the violence, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said yesterday in a gloomy assessment to the Security Council.

The new envoy leavened his message, however, saying he was crafting a new plan he hopes can break the impasse. He refused to give details or say when it would be ready.

Despite President Bashar Assad's refusal to end his family's 40-year grip on power, some tentative hope of a solution remained, Brahimi said in his first briefing to the council since he took over from Kofi Annan on Sept. 1 as the UN-Arab League special representative for Syria.

"I think 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 told reporters after the closed-door talks.

Activists say nearly 30,000 people have died in the uprising that began in March 2011, including in attacks yesterday by Syrian warplanes in the northern city of Aleppo.

Brahimi had just returned from Syria and refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. His report of a looming food crisis, battle-damaged schools and shuttered factories contradicted his insistence that he saw grounds for optimism, including "some signs" that the divided Syrian opposition may be moving toward unity. That is key for any political negotiations Brahimi would oversee.

"I refuse to believe that reasonable people do not see that you cannot go backward, that you cannot go back to the Syria of the past. I told everybody in Damascus and everywhere that reform is not enough anymore; what is needed is change," said Brahimi, who met with Assad and other regime officials in Damascus.

"Paradoxically, now that I have found out a little more about what is happening in the country and the region, I think that we will find an opening in the not too distant future," he said.

Brahimi said he wanted to hold further discussions before disclosing precisely what action he plans to propose. "I do not have a full plan for the moment, but I do have a few ideas," he said.

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