GENEVA - A top United Nations human rights investigator has been holding talks in Damascus with senior Syrian officials to pave the way for a UN probe into widespread violations in the country, including recent massacres, UN and diplomatic sources said on Monday.

It was the first time that Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro was granted permission to enter Syria since his team was set up last September by the UN Human Rights Council.

"He is trying to pave the way for us to be able to go into the country," a UN source told Reuters in Geneva. "We need to go before September when our final report is to be submitted."

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