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New Syrian Envoy Brahimi Takes On 'Crucial Task'

Longtime troubleshooter Lakhdar Brahimi has, as expected, taken on the extremely difficult challenge of being the "joint special representative for Syria" who will try to broker a peace plan for that nation on behalf of the United Nations and the League of Arab States.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, Brahimi is a former Algerian foreign minister who has also had a long career as an international diplomat with the U.N. He helped broker a peace treaty in Lebanon and led U.N. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Brahimi, 78, takes over the new assignment from former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who crafted a peace plan that never took hold.

In a statement, the U.N. says that Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon "appreciates Mr. Brahimi's willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task. ... More fighting and militarization will only exacerbate the suffering and make more difficult the path to a peaceful resolution of the crisis which would lead to a political transition in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

Earlier this week an independent commission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded that government forces and the shabiha militia supporting President Bashar Assad have been guilty of war crimes. As The Associated Press also wrote:

"Activists say more than 20,000 people have been killed since the start of Syria's revolt [in March 2011], inspired by other Arab Spring uprisings against autocratic regimes in the region. The conflict has slowly changed into a full blown civil war that the panel says involves 'more brutal tactics and new military capabilities on both sides.' "

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.