Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, has said after talks with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, that the situation was “worrying” and gave no indication of progress toward a negotiated solution for the civil war.
“The situation in Syria is still worrying and we hope that all the parties will go toward the solution that the Syrian people are hoping for and look forward to,” Brahimi said after his meeting with Assad in Damascus on Monday.
The UN envoy said he and President Assad exchanged views on the crisis and discussed possible steps forward, which he did not disclose.
Brahimi has apparently made little progress toward brokering an end to the conflict since starting his job in September, primarily because both sides adamantly refuse to talk to each other.
His mission came as activists reported intense fighting in the central province of Hama, where anti-government gunmen entered the predominantly Alawite town of Maan.
Assad’s regime is dominated by members of his minority Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.
Opposition gunmen entered Maan and raised the opposition flag over the main police station, Hama activist Mousab Alhamadee said via Skype.
Killer gas bombs
Activists, meanwhile, accused Assad’s regime of unleashing killer gas bombs in the central city of Homs.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted activists in the central city of Homs as saying that six rebels died in two neighborhoods on Sunday night after inhaling white smoke that came out of shells fired on the area.
“We demand that an international team be sent to the area to investigate the type” of the shells used, said Observatory chief Rami Abdul-Rahman.
Amateur videos released by activists showed men in hospital beds suffering breathing problems as doctors placed oxygen masks on their faces. Some of them coughed strongly as they tried to breath.
“At first, the smell was strong. Then little by little, it got weaker,” a man who was identified as a rebel in the area said in the video. “The smell was like hydrochloric acid, and people started choking and I wasn’t able to breath.” He added.
“My eyes hurt and burned, my head started hurting, I wasn’t able to breathe. I just want to breathe clean air,” said the man who closed his eyes and said he was having difficulty seeing because of the attack.
Meanwhile, the United States accused the Syrian regime on Monday of launching a “vicious” attack on civilians at a bakery in the town of Halfaya that left at least 60 people killed.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the latest vicious attacks by the Syrian regime against civilians, most notably the attack on people waiting to buy bread at a bakery in the town of Halfaya,” acting State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.
“Brutal attacks such as these show that this regime has no future in Syria. Those that commit atrocities will be held accountable. The United States calls on all parties that continue to assist the regime in executing its war against the Syrian people to end their support.”