* Brahimi to meet Assad in trip to region this week-UN's Ban
* Envoy has called conflict "extremely bad, getting worse"
* Risk of spillover shown by clashes along Turkey border
By John Irish
PARIS, Oct 9 U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
will go to Syria this week to try to persuade Bashar al-Assad's
government to call an immediate ceasefire in an 18-month-old
conflict with rebels, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on
Efforts by Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, to engineer a
ceasefire collapsed within days, with neither the Damascus
government nor opposition forces willing to abide by conditions
for an effective cessation of hostilities.
Brahimi is to meet Assad as fighting rages in Syria's
biggest city Aleppo and government forces pursue offensives to
dislodge rebels from provincial bastions elsewhere, causing
increasing spillover into neighbouring countries especially
Turkey, prompting Ban to warn against the danger of escalation.
"Brahimi is now going to the region again and he will visit
several countries and after that he will visit Syria," Ban told
a news conference along with French President Francois Hollande
after the two met in Paris.
Ban said Brahimi aimed to curb the bloodshed and negotiate a
deal to allow more humanitarian aid into Syria, where a civilian
protest movement has evolved into an armed insurgency and one
million people have been driven from their homes.
"First and foremost, the violence must be stopped as soon as
possible," Ban said. Diplomats said Brahimi would first visit
Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, all regional diplomatic
heavyweights, for consultations before heading to Damascus.
In September, his first month on the job, Brahimi met Assad
in Damascus and visited Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and
Jordan. The U.N. envoy said afterwards that he had a "few ideas"
but no full plan on how to defuse the conflict, which he
described as "extremely bad and getting worse".
On Monday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned that "worst
case scenarios" were playing out in Syria as Turkey's army fired
shells over the border for the sixth day running in response to
shelling from the Syrian side. Northern Syria near the Turkish
border has seen heavy fighting in the civil war.
LEERY OF UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE
Asked how Assad reacted to calls for a ceasefire, Ban said
he had conveyed a "strong message" for a unilateral truce.
"Of course, their reaction was what will happen if they do
it and the opposition forces continue (to fight)?" he said.
Ban said he was discussing how to provide assurances to both
rebels and the government in talks with the U.N. Security
Council and countries in the region. "I am getting positive
support from the key countries," he said.
He repeated a call for those countries providing weapons to
both sides to stop. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have backed
the rebels, while Assad's main allies are Iran and Russia.
Turkey has bolstered its military presence along the 900-km
(560-mile) border with Syria and responded in kind to gunfire
and shelling coming from the south, where Assad's forces have
been battling insurgents holding swathes of territory.
Hollande, among the most outspoken Western critics of Assad,
said he would push for more punitive sanctions against Damascus
in hope of forcing the Syrian leader to the negotiating table.
"The difficulty we are facing is not linked to the U.S.
election, but to the division at the U.N. Security Council to
take immediate decisions that would be useful to the Syrian
people," he said.
Russia and China have vetoed Western-backed attempts to have
the Council pass harsh U.N. sanctions aimed at isolating Assad.
Activists say more than 30,000 people have been killed in
the uprising against Assad.