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U.N. humanitarian chief in Syria for talks

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 27, 2013 at 10:41 a.m.

— The United Nations humanitarian chief was in Damascus on Sunday for talks with Syrian officials about the nation’s conflict, which has forced millions of people from their homes, destroyed the country’s cities and created food and fuel shortages.

Valerie Amos did not make any public remarks upon her arrival in Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, but was seen by reporters heading to the offices of U.N. agencies and government officials.

Living conditions have deteriorated across Syria during the 22-month conflict, which began with political protests but has since evolved into a civil war with scores of rebel groups battling President Bashar Assad’s forces. Entire towns and neighborhoods have been damaged in the fighting, and more than 2 million people are internally displaced, with another 650,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Some areas face food shortages, and even areas that have been spared large-scale violence like Damascus lack sufficient quantities of gasoline, heating oil and cooking gas.

On Friday, the U.N. announced it was preparing to send $10 million in new U.S. aid to help alleviate hunger in northern Syria.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Amos said world powers had not done enough to lessen Syrian suffering.

“The humanitarian situation in Syria is already catastrophic and it’s clearly getting worse,” she said. “What we are seeing now are the consequences of the failure of the international community to unite to resolve the crisis.”

World powers remain divided on how to solve the crisis. The U.S. and many Arab and European countries have called on Assad to step down, while Russia, China and Iran refuse any pressure from outside that seeks to hasten the regime’s fall.

On Saturday, Iran made its strongest warning to date that it could intervene militarily to help Assad’s regime.

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