In brief: U.N. peace envoy urges new peace talks on Syria
BEIRUT – The United Nations-backed peace envoy called Sunday for talks in a fresh bid to end Syria’s bloodshed, but deep distrust between both sides in the conflict casts doubt on the likelihood of meaningful dialogue.
Negotiations between the Syrian opposition and an “acceptable delegation” from the government of President Bashar Assad “will be a beginning to exit the dark tunnel which Syria has entered,” said Lakhdar Brahimi, special envoy for the U.N. and the Arab League.
The opposition insists any talks must result in the removal of Assad and his security leadership. The government rejects any such “precondition,” but has itself seemed to rule out talks with armed opponents it dubs “terrorists,” and with exile leaders labeled “puppets” of the West.
To date, each side seems to view negotiations as an alternate route to victory, rather than as a compromise-laden path to peace in a nation devastated by almost two years of conflict.
Shiite neighborhoods hit by bomb attacks
BAGHDAD – A string of bombings in Shiite Muslim neighborhoods in eastern Baghdad killed as many as two dozen people and reflected Iraq’s heightened sectarian tensions after nearly two months of Sunni protests.
The bombs went off around 11 a.m., with three explosions in the Shiite slum of Sadr City and three in other nearby neighborhoods. Preliminary news reports put the death toll at 21 to 28, with more than 100 wounded.
The stalemate between the government and Sunni protesters has aggravated the already brittle relationship between Iraq’s newly ascendant Shiite majority and its Sunnis, who dominated the country’s leadership until the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.