August 24, 2012 / 5:25 PM / 8 years ago

New Syria mediator tells U.N. chief he is "scared"

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday that he was “honored, flattered, humbled and scared” at the prospect of leading international efforts to broker peace in Syria’s worsening 17-month conflict.

Brahimi met with Ban for the first time since agreeing last week to replace Kofi Annan as the U.N. and Arab League joint special representative on Syria. While he is not due to take up the post officially until September 1, diplomats said Brahimi had already filled Annan’s role.

“Secretary-General, when you called me I told you that I was honored, flattered, humbled and scared and I am still in that frame of mind,” Brahimi told Ban, when the pair met in New York.

“The Syrian people, they will be our first masters. We will consider their interests above and before anyone else. We will try to help as much as we can, we will not spare any effort,” he said. “Let’s try and see what we can do.”

Brahimi, who hesitated for days before accepting the job that France’s U.N. envoy, Gerard Araud, called an “impossible mission,” was meeting with U.N. officials on Friday to discuss plans for a new approach to the Syria conflict, which the United Nations says has killed over 18,000 people.

“The longer this fighting goes on, the more people will be killed, the more people will suffer,” Ban said on Friday.

“Your (Brahimi’s) leadership will be very important, you have the full respect and full support of international community. It is crucially important the Security Council, the whole United Nations system (is) supporting your role,” he said.

Brahimi also met on Friday with Araud, president of the U.N. Security Council for August. Brieuc Pont, the spokesman of the French U.N. mission, said they discussed “numerous changes of his mission.”

“They shared their extreme concerns about the situation in Syria. The president of the Security Council said he would organize an informal meeting of the Security Council with the joint special representative soon,” Pont said.

Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is stepping down after six months as the international Syria envoy because he said his peace plan was hampered by a divided U.N. Security Council.

Annan was especially frustrated by the deadlock among the five permanent council members.

Russia, backed by China, repeatedly vetoed Western- and Arab-backed resolutions that criticized the Syrian government and threatened it with sanctions, saying the United States, Europe and Gulf Arabs were seeking regime change.

The Western powers have accused Russia, Syria’s top arms supplier and staunch ally, of propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. They have also accused Syria’s ally Iran of providing military aid to Assad.

Brahimi told Reuters in an interview last Saturday that while in New York he wanted to urgently clarify what support the United Nations could offer him to ensure his mission had a better chance of success.

Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Vicki Allen and Peter Cooney

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