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Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura was named UN mediator for Syria on Thursday, taking on the Herculean task of finding a political solution to the dragging civil war. He replaces the hugely respected Lakhdar Brahimi, who resigned in May after two rounds of peace talks collapsed and as the conflict escalated into a fourth year, killing more than 162,000 people. UN chief Ban Ki-moon confirmed the appointment of the special representative and his Egyptian deputy, urging the much-divided Security Council and Syrian parties to work closely with him. Ban has frequently criticized animosity on the Council between Western powers and Russia, a close ally of Damascus, which has all but paralyzed an international response to the crisis.

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