The United Nation's (UN) new envoy to Syria told President Bashar Assad's regime on the weekend that change is both "urgent" and "necessary" and that it must meet the "legitimate" demands of the Syrian people, words that will not win the seasoned Algerian diplomat and international troubleshooter any friends in Damascus.
On his first day on the job, Lakhdar Brahimi also called on both sides to end violence in Syria, but said Assad's government bears more responsibility than anyone else to halt the bloodshed. These remarks were seemingly intended to push the Damascus government to ease off on military operations to create a better atmosphere for his peace mission.
His comments, made in New York, came as activists said rebels captured an air defence facility in the east of the country near the border with Iraq. The battle for control of Syria's largest city Aleppo meanwhile intensified, with government warplanes and ground forces pounding it with bombs and mortar rounds as rebel fighters fought off troops in the narrow alleys of the city's old quarter.