Middle East

Profile: Lakhdar Brahimi

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Media captionLakhdar Brahimi, explains why he is "scared" of his role

Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, brings decades of peacemaking experience to his new role - a mission he has described as "nearly impossible".

The 78-year-old is an experienced operator in the Arab and Islamic worlds, having served as Arab League under-secretary-general in the 1980s and as Algeria's foreign minister in the 1990s.

Moreover, he is no stranger to Syrian affairs. As the Arab League's envoy, he helped to broker an end to the long-running Lebanese civil war in 1989, negotiating with the Syrian government of the time.

UN trouble-shooter

Mr Brahimi won praise for his efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and Iraq, after US-led forces ousted their governments.

As the UN special envoy in post-Saddam Iraq, he helped to establish the interim government that came to power in 2004.

Mr Brahimi served as the UN's top envoy in Afghanistan during Taliban rule, and was reappointed in 2001, playing a key role in the talks that led to the first post-Taliban constitution.

His UN career also encompassed missions in South Africa, ahead of the 1994 election that brought Nelson Mandela to power, and in Haiti, where he was the senior UN envoy from 1994-96.

Mr Brahimi has also represented the UN in DR Congo, Yemen, Liberia, Nigeria and Sudan.

In between his stints in Afghanistan, Mr Brahimi chaired an independent review of UN peacekeeping operations.

The Brahimi Report criticised the UN over its failure to react to atrocities in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995. It recommended a major overhaul of UN peacekeeping operations.

Mr Brahimi has also courted controversy. In 2004, during his time in Iraq, he said Israeli policies were "the big poison in the region". Israel said the comments were "highly inappropriate" for a senior UN official.

Though he officially retired in 2005, Mr Brahimi has remained active as a lecturer and a participant in non-profit-making organisations dedicated to world affairs.

He has undertaken special assignments, including heading a UN investigation into the deadly December 2007 bombing of its headquarters in Algiers.

Mr Brahimi is a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders founded in 2007 by Nelson Mandela with the aim of promoting peace and human rights. In 2010, he visited Syria, Gaza, Egypt and Jordan on behalf of the group.

Algeria role

Born in Algeria in 1934, Mr Brahimi joined the campaign for independence from France in 1956, representing the National Liberation Front in South-East Asia for five years.

After independence, he was Algeria's ambassador to Egypt and its permanent representative to the Arab League in Cairo. From 1971-79, he served as ambassador to the UK.

Mr Brahimi was educated in Algeria and France and studied law and political science. He is a fluent speaker of Arabic, English and French. He is married and has three children.

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