International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met Syria's President Bashar Assad on Saturday, state television said, to discuss efforts to end the country's 18-month-old conflict which activists say has killed more than 27,000 people.
It was Brahimi's first meeting with Assad since he replaced Kofi Annan as peace envoy two weeks ago, taking on a mission which the veteran Algerian diplomat described as "nearly impossible."
Assad's forces and the outgunned but increasingly powerful rebels seeking his overthrow have ignored appeals to end the fighting, which has continued in most of the country's main cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Deir al-Zor.
Damascus residents reported hearing heavy overnight bombardment followed by the sound of jet planes swooping over the capital shortly after 7 A.M. on Saturday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the violence, said 160 people were killed in Syria on Friday, as Brahimi met Russian and Chinese diplomats in Damascus. On Thursday he spoke with the Iranian ambassador.
Russia, Iran and China are supporting Assad's government and Moscow and Beijing have three times blocked Western-backed attempts in the UN Security Council to criticize and threaten sanctions against Damascus.
Syria's UN envoy Bashar Ja'afari said earlier this month Damascus was "open-minded and fully committed to the mission of Mr Brahimi in his endeavors to put an end to violence and find a Syrian-led political solution to the crisis."
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