International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday, the United Nations said, as he tries to find a way to end the country's 18-month conflict, which has killed thousands.
Brahimi, who replaced former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the start of September as the U.N.-Arab League Syria mediator, arrived in Damascus on Thursday as state forces pounded its eastern outskirts to flush out rebels trying to retain a foothold in the Syrian capital.
"Tomorrow Mr. Brahimi will hold more meetings including with a group of Arab ambassadors and charge d' affairs, a European Union delegation, an opposition group and civil society representatives and Mr. Brahimi will meet the Syrian President," U.N. spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters on Friday.
Earlier on Friday the veteran Algerian diplomat met with the Russian ambassador to Syria and the Chinese charge d' affairs and on Thursday he spoke with the Iranian ambassador to Syria.
Russia, Iran and China are supporting Assad's government and Moscow and Beijing have three times blocked Western-backed attempts in the U.N. Security Council to criticize and threaten sanctions against Damascus.
The Security Council is deadlocked as the death toll climbs toward 30,000 and the refugee count soars to more than 200,000. Annan blamed the Security Council impasse for hampering his six-month bid for peace and leading to his decision to step down at the end of last month.
Syria's U.N. 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."
Brahimi has described his mission of trying to broker a peace deal between an opposition with increasing military capabilities and forces loyal to Assad as "nearly impossible."