BEIRUT - The international envoy for Syria fears the country could turn into a new Somalia unless its crisis is resolved, warning of a scenario in which warlords and militia fill a void left by a collapsed state.

In an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi played down the risk of sectarian and ethnic partition of Syria, but said: "What I am afraid of is worse...the collapse of the state and that Syria turns into a new Somalia."

The Horn of Africa country has been without effective central government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.

"I believe that if this issue is not dealt with correctly, the danger is 'Somalisation' and not partition: the collapse of the state and the emergence of warlords, militias and fighting groups," said Brahimi, who was appointed as UN-Arab League envoy to Syria in August to replace former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Asked how long the conflict could go on, Brahimi said: "Everyone must face a bitter, difficult and scary truth: that this type of crisis - if not dealt with correctly day by day - can go on for a year, two years and more."

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