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UN Special Envoy tries to bridge chasm over Syrian crisis

UN Special Envoy tries to bridge chasm over Syrian crisis
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UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had a lot of work to do when he met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday to discuss peace. Assad reiterated that foreign powers would first have to withdraw their support for the rebels before he came to the table.

Syria’s rebel forces meanwhile, insist that any negotiations take place with a view to removing Assad, but the president has rejected any preconditions.

In a rare moment of compromise, both the rebels and government forces agreed on Tuesday to allow the passage of almost 2,000 civilians trapped by the fighting in Damascus, helped by the Syrian Red Crescent. Thousands more remain stuck with little food, water or medicine.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake ended a trip to Damascus by visiting a health care centre immunising children. He said the Syrian government and UNICEF had agreed to vaccinate thousands of children in difficult to reach areas.

The World Health Organisation recently confirmed an outbreak of polio, a highly contagious virus which can cause paralysis in children and has no known cure. The vaccination coverage rate for Syria has dropped from around 95 percent to 50 percent since the crisis began.