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Syria violence rages during Muslim holiday; New envoy already on opposition's bad side

(CBS/AP) BEIRUT - Intense fighting on Monday between rebels and Syrian regime forces killed six people, including two children and two women in the southern city of Daraa, two rights groups said.

The fighting comes on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, a major Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, and a day after the United Nation's new envoy to Syria acknowledged that he had no concrete ideas to end the conflict.

In a sign of the difficulties he faces in the role, Lakhdar Brahimi angered the leading Syrian opposition group before even setting foot in the country - by using diplomatic caution and saying he could not yet call for Bashar Assad to step down immediately, as his predecessor had urged.

In a statement to the Reuters news agency over the weekend, the Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group based in Turkey, lashed out at Brahimi's remark, accusing him of giving Assad "the time he needs to destroy the basis of Syrian society."

Speaking days after his appointment, Brahimi said he needed more time to come to grips with the realities of the crisis before he could call for Assad to step down.

The SNC said that stance was "against humanity and peace ... We demand that the envoy, who did not consult any Syrian about his mission, to apologize to our people," according to Reuters.

Brahimi also said in a Sunday interview that his mission would be difficult without a unified position by the U.N. Security Council.

"The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently," Brahimi told The Associated Press at his Paris home on Sunday.

"If they spoke in one voice and were clearly supportive of what I will be doing on their behalf, that is what I need," Brahimi said in response to what he wants from the Security Council. "Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult," the former Algerian foreign minister added.

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Monday's violence in Daraa, birthplace of the country's 18-month-old uprising, was reported by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination committees.

The two groups also reported fighting across much of the rest of the country, with the most intense violence in the suburbs of Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, with scores killed or wounded.

The reports could not be independently confirmed, but an activist in the Damascus area, El-said Mohammed, said seven people were killed and at least 70 wounded when government forces shelled the town of Moadamiyeh with tanks and mortars. He said the defection on Sunday to the rebels' side of some 30 troops along with a tank from army forces in the area may have been behind Monday's shelling.

Mohammed spoke by Skype from the greater Damascus area. His information could not be verified, but the Observatory said five civilians and three rebels were killed in the shelling in Moadamiyeh.

Brahimi was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria. He served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war as an Arab League envoy.

He said Annan's mission failed "because the international community was not as supportive as he needed them to be."

Russia and China have used their veto power at the Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

Brahimi was travelling to New York Sunday. Later he will go to Cairo for meetings with the Arab League.

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