UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations on Thursday named its former leader Kofi Annan as the international troubleshooter to try to end the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on protests.
As special envoy for the UN and Arab League, Annan will "provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis," the two bodies said in a statement.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil el-Arabi said they were "grateful to Mr. Annan for accepting this important mission at a critical time for the people of Syria."
A deputy envoy from the Arab region is to be named soon, the two added in the statement.
More than 7,500 people have been killed in 11 months of protests against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and there is growing international pressure for an initiative seeking to end the murderous government crackdown.
Annan served two terms as UN secretary general from 1997 through 2006. After standing down he was called in as a mediator to end deadly unrest in Kenya in 2008.
The Ghanaian will now act under a mandate set out by a UN General Assembly resolution passed last week and Arab League resolutions on Syria, the UN and Arab League chiefs said.
Annan "will consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria in order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis," said the statement.
He will seek to "facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition," it added.
Ban announced Annan's appointment after final talks in London with el-Arabi and other international leaders on the next steps to take to end the Syria violence.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and foreign ministers from Britain, France and Arab countries were expected to give public support for Annan's task at a Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis on Friday.
Dealing with Assad will however be one of the toughest challenges taken on by Annan in more than four decades as an international diplomat.
Richard Gowan, of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, said Annan's work as a mediator in Kenya "is widely viewed as one of the finest pieces of preventive diplomacy in recent years, so there will be hopes he can pull off another coup here."
Weeks of often tense talks saw Annan pull off a deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga so that their followers ended unrest in which more than 1,300 people died.
Annan has also been critical of the western campaign last year against late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi. "That may give him some additional credibility with the Assad regime," Gowan told AFP.
"Despite Annan's personal profile, the key to successful mediation is for him to have genuine political support from across the international system. If the Russians and Chinese don't give him sufficient support, Assad and his supporters are likely to refuse to talk seriously," Gowan said.
Annan and former Finnish president Martti Ahtissari were the two leading candidates to be the envoy, diplomats said.
Also considered were Mouloud Hamrouche, a former prime minister of Algeria, and Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, a former foreign minister for Kuwait, diplomats said.
Ban had wanted an Arab envoy, from a country like Algeria, but Arab governments did not want the main envoy to come from the region because of divisions over how to deal with Syria, diplomats said.
The UN humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, has written to Assad's government asking to arrange a visit to Syria, diplomats said.
Amos has demanded access to all of the country, including the protest city of Homs which now comes under daily shelling from government forces, they said.