By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi has agreed to replace Kofi Annan as the international mediator on Syria, though he intends to take a fresh approach as the 17-month-old conflict slips deeper into civil war, U.N. sources said on Thursday
Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is stepping down at the end of August after six months in the job. He said his Syria peace plan was hampered by a divided and deadlocked U.N. Security Council.
Diplomats told Reuters that Brahimi, who had been undecided for days about whether to accept the offer of the post from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, did not want to be seen as a mere replacement of Annan but wanted a reconfigured title and fresh approach to his mandate as a peace broker.
"He has agreed to take the post but with an amended title; he has new ideas about the approach to take," a U.N. source told Reuters on condition of anonymity, adding that Ban accepted that. Two Security Council diplomats confirmed the remarks.
U.N. officials said it was not clear when an official announcement would be made. Annan's title was joint special envoy for the United Nations and Arab League.
It remains unclear what Brahimi's formal link with the Arab League, if any, will be, diplomats said. They said Brahimi would be based in New York, unlike Annan, who is based in Geneva.
Syria had only accepted Annan as a U.N. representative of the United Nations, not the Arab League, which suspended Syria's membership due to the escalating violence between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels determined to oust him.
Brahimi, a veteran U.N. troubleshooter, has demanded "strong support" from the Security Council for efforts to secure a negotiated peace, envoys said.
A source familiar with the situation said that if Brahimi took the job as the new U.N.-Arab League mediator, he would not continue with Annan's "failed approach" to the conflict but would seek a fresh strategy.
Many U.N. diplomats say that Annan's six-point peace plan remains a good departure point for any mediation effort.
Last week Brahimi made clear he wanted an end to the international deadlock on Syria.
"The U.N. Security Council and regional states must unite to ensure that a political transition can take place as soon as possible," Brahimi said in a statement published on the website of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders committed to peace and human rights.
"Millions of Syrians are clamoring for peace," Brahimi said. "World leaders cannot remain divided any longer, over and above their cries."
Annan was frustrated with the deadlock between the five permanent Security Council members. Russia, backed by China, repeatedly vetoed Western- and Arab-backed resolutions that criticized Damascus and threatened it with sanctions, saying the United States, Europe and Gulf Arabs were seeking regime change.
The Western powers have in turn accused Russia, Syria's top arms supplier and staunch ally, of propping up Assad's government in Damascus. They have also accused Syria's ally Iran of providing military aid to Assad.
The United States, envoys say, saw little point in replacing Annan and has stepped up non-lethal support to the rebels.
Brahimi, 78, has served as a U.N. special envoy in a series of challenging circumstances, including in Iraq after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein; in Afghanistan both before and after the end of Taliban rule, and in South Africa as it emerged from the apartheid era.
For a Factbox on Brahimi, click here (Editing by David Brunnstrom)
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.