UN cease-fire plan presented to Assad

Envoy pushes for holiday truce

At least 13 people were killed when a car bomb exploded Sunday in the Bab Touma section of Damascus, Syria.
SANA via Associated Press
At least 13 people were killed when a car bomb exploded Sunday in the Bab Touma section of Damascus, Syria.

AMMAN, Jordan — The UN special envoy trying to end Syria’s civil war pushed his call for a cease-fire in direct talks with President Bashar Assad on Sunday, as a deadly explosion rocked Damascus.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who represents the United Nations and the Arab League, has called for a cease-fire between rebels and government forces during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins Oct. 26.

Brahimi said he met earlier with Syrian opposition groups inside and outside the country to discuss his truce plan. He said he received support but not a commitment from them to honor the cease-fire.


He declined to disclose Assad’s response to his plan, which is viewed as a preliminary step toward a larger deal.

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While the talks were going on in Damascus, a taxi packed with explosives blew up near a police station in another part of the Syrian capital, killing 13 people and wounding 29. The attack took place in the popular shopping district of Bab Touma, in Damascus’ Old City.

Officials said the taxi exploded about 50 yards from the main police station in Bab Touma. State news agency SANA put the death toll at 13, while the antigovernment Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed. Bab Touma is mainly inhabited by Syria’s Christian minority.

Damascus has been a frequent target of bombings in recent months, although it was once largely immune to the violence spreading across the country since the anti-Assad revolt began in March 2011.

There was no claim of responsibility for Sunday’s blast, but Islamist groups fighting alongside the rebels have in the past said they target security installations in the capital.


SANA reported that Assad assured Brahimi that he supported the cease-fire effort but it did not say whether he committed to a truce.

‘‘The president said he is open to any sincere effort to find a political solution to the crisis on the basis of respecting Syrian sovereignty and rejecting foreign interference,’’ it said.

It added that Assad also stressed that a political solution must be ‘‘based on the principle of halting terrorism, a commitment from the countries involved in supporting, arming and harboring terrorists in Syria to stop doing such acts.’’

 Syrian authorities blame the antigovernment uprising on a foreign conspiracy and accuse Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the United States, other Western countries and Turkey, of funding, training and arming the rebels, whom they describe as ‘‘terrorists.’’

For months, Turkey served as headquarters for the leaders of the Free Syrian Army before the rebel group shifted its command to Syria. It also hosts many meetings of the Syrian National Council opposition group. Relations between the two countries, once close, have been deteriorating since the crisis began last year and Ankara became one of Assad’s harshest critics.