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Red Cross chief will request Assad's help with Syria's humanitarian crisis

The Red Cross head is traveling to Syria to request that President Bashar al-Assad make it easier for humanitarian workers to reach civilians facing deteriorating living conditions.

By Stephanie NebehayReuters / September 3, 2012

Swiss Peter Maurer, right, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, speaks at a panel discussion during the World Humanitarian Day, in Geneva, Switzerland in August. Maurer visits Syria this week.

AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi

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Geneva

The new head of the Red Cross will urge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to improve humanitarian access to civilians in the war-torn country during a visit to Syria that begins on Monday, the aid agency said.

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Peter Maurer said he would also continue efforts to gain access for his agency to Syria's detention centers – which rights groups say hold tens of thousands of people rounded up during the 17-month-old conflict, including teenagers.

"At a time when more and more civilians are being exposed to extreme violence, it is of the utmost importance that we and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent succeed in significantly scaling up our humanitarian response," he said in a statement.

"An adequate humanitarian response is required to keep pace with needs, which have been growing exponentially," added Maurer, who took over as president of the independent organization from Jakob Kellenberger on July 1.

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