UN envoy appeals to Iran over Syria

DAMASCUS - UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has appealed for Iranian help to implement a ceasefire in Syria over the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Following a visit to Tehran, Mr Brahimi said such a ceasefire could "allow a political process to develop".

Meanwhile, Turkey said the number of Syrian refugees in its camps now exceeded 100,000.

Turkey also said it had searched an Armenian plane taking aid to Syria, after it made a planned landing.

A spokesman was quoted as saying that Turkey wanted to check that the plane was not carrying military equipment before letting it continue its journey to the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Last week, Turkey forced a Syrian plane to land, claiming that it was carrying Russian-made "munitions" for the Syrian army. Syria and Russia denied the plane was carrying anything illegal.

Inside Syria, the Umayyad Mosque in the old city of Aleppo was reported to have been badly damaged in fighting between government forces and rebels over the weekend.

Syrian TV reported that President Bashar al-Assad had ordered immediate repairs to the mosque, which is the most important in the city and lies within the Unesco world heritage site.

Unesco had appealed last week for the protection of "one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world", as government forces and rebels struggle for control of Syria's second city.

Mr Brahimi met top Iranian officials in Tehran during a regional tour, as he presses for a way to resolve the conflict in Syria.

In a statement at the end of his visit, the UN-Arab League envoy "reiterated the call by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a ceasefire and a halt to the flow of arms to both sides".

He "underlined that the crisis in Syria was getting worse every day and stressed the urgent need to stop the bloodshed".

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha is expected to start in about 10 days' time.

Mr Brahimi, who succeeded former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan as envoy to Syria, is now in Iraq. He visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey last week.

Protests against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in Syria began in March last year.

The violence has gradually escalated. Activists say more than 30,000 people have been killed, while the UN estimates that at least 20,000 have died.

Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries.

Turkey's disaster management agency said on Monday that there were 100,363 Syrians at camps on the Turkish side of its border with Syria.

Turkey had earlier said it would struggle to cope with more than 100,000 refugees.

Jordan has said it intends to set up a new camp at Marajeeb al-Fahood, east of the capital, Amman, for those fleeing the violence in Syria.

Officials say Jordan is home to at least 200,000 Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the region. More than 30,000 of these are in the UN-run Zataari camp, with many more hosted by families.

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