GENEVA - The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Tuesday, an ICRC spokesman said, during a mission to push for better access for aid workers.

Red Cross chief Peter Maurer held 45 minutes of talks with the Syrian leader, spokesman Hicham Hassan said, without giving details of their discussions.

The ICRC had earlier said Maurer's trip would tackle the "rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Syria, where Assad has been trying to crush a 17-month-old uprising against his rule, and the difficulties facing aid workers in the country.

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