UPDATE 1-Brahimi: Alleged chemical weapon attack shows Syria peace talks urgent

Fri Aug 23, 2013 5:56am EDT

(Adds remarks from Brahimi statement)

GENEVA Aug 23 (Reuters) - Arab League-United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi believes that the alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria this week should speed up work towards an international peace conference, his spokeswoman said on Friday.

"He thinks that the recent escalation and grave (event) that happened in Syria, in Damascus close to the capital, should put an urgency to Geneva 2, to move forward on the political (talks) and should prove to the world that there is no military solution," Khawla Mattar told a news briefing in Geneva.

"Geneva 2" means a follow-up to a ministerial meeting on Syria held in the Swiss city on June 30, 2012, chaired by Brahimi's predecessor as Arab League-U.N. envoy, Kofi Annan.

Brahimi has stepped up contacts with senior U.S. and Russian officials due to meet in The Hague next Wednesday and may hold talks with them subsequently, probably in Geneva, Mattar said. A U.N. official said it was hoped that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would be able to announce a date for an international conference on Syria at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 22.

In a subsequent statement issued by his Geneva office, Brahimi said: "The problem is that the parties that are involved in this civil war, each one of them thinks that they can win militarily. We believe, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a lot of other people believe, that there is no military solution; no side is going to win. There is only a political solution and the earlier we work on it, the better."

The United Nations stepped up demands on Syria for access to rebel-held Damascus suburbs hit by an apparent poison gas attack as activists sought to smuggle samples from victims to U.N. chemical weapons inspectors.

"What has happened, this story, this allegation, that chemical weapons have been used a few kilometres from the heart of Damascus, as a matter of fact emphasises the importance of this crisis and the danger it represents, not only for the Syrian people, not only for the region, but for the world," Brahimi said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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