Diplomats: Algeria's Brahimi could replace Annan

In this Sept. 4, 2009 file photo, former Algerian foreign affairs minister Lakhdar Brahimi attends the Ambrosetti economic forum in Cernobbio, Lake Como, Italy. AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File

(AP) UNITED NATIONS - Former Algerian foreign affairs minister Lakhdar Brahimi is a strong candidate to replace Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria, diplomats said Thursday.

Diplomats who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly said that Brahimi was a strong possibility, while other contenders are ex-Spanish foreign affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Spain's Javier Solana, a former NATO chief and European Union foreign policy head.

Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, announced his resignation last week as joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, ending a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire. He leaves at the end of the month.

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Divisions within the Security Council prevented a united approach to stop the fighting in in Syria, Annan said when he announced his resignation. Russia and China have twice used their veto power to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against President Bashar Assad's regime.

While he singled out the regime for blame for the escalating violence, Annan also said the opposition's increasingly militant tactics contributed to dooming his six-point peace plan, which included a cease-fire and a Syrian-led political process to end the crisis. Annan did succeed in getting the Syrian government and its allies to at least agree to the plan.

Brahimi, 78, served as Algeria's foreign minister from 1991-93 and brought his diplomatic skills and reputation as a tough negotiator to the United Nations in 1994, where he served in a variety of high-profile posts, including as an envoy in Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq, until he retired in 2005. He is a member of the Elders, a group of world leaders working for global peace that includes Nelson Mandela.

As an Arab League envoy, Brahimi helped negotiate the end of the civil war in Lebanon.

As U.N. special representative in South Africa, he helped oversee democratic elections that brought Mandela to power. Brahimi served as the U.N. envoy in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and after a U.S.-led force ousted the Taliban. In Iraq, he played a major role in helping put together the interim government that took power on June 30, 2004, following the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Brahimi served as a special advisor to Annan on conflict prevention and resolution until his retirement. In 2000, Brahimi headed an independent panel to review U.N. peace-related operations that issued a report calling for a major overhaul of U.N. peacemaking efforts, now known as the Brahimi report.

He also headed an independent review of U.N. security worldwide following a 2008 terrorist attack on the global body's offices in Algiers.

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