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Published: Friday January 17, 2014 MYT 1:20:02 AM
Updated: Friday January 17, 2014 MYT 1:20:59 AM

United Nations says aid convoy reaches Damascus district

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Nations delivered aid to a district in southeast Damascus on Thursday, a day after it said that Syrian authorities had promised to allow humanitarian supplies through to areas cut off by fighting.

U.N. spokesman Khaled Masri said a convoy assisted by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had brought food, medicine and winter relief supplies to Al Ghuzlaniyah, close to Damascus airport.

Along with another convoy planned soon to a neighbourhood west of Damascus, the two deliveries would help a total of 20,000 people, Masri told Reuters by telephone from Damascus.

He said Thursday's delivery was the first to reach Ghuzlaniyah, on the edge of the rebel stronghold of East Ghouta region which has been under military siege by President Bashar al-Assad's forces for more than a year.

The World Food Programme said last week it was concerned at reports of malnutrition after it tried and failed several times in the past few months to reach besieged areas around Damascus, especially Mouadamiya, Nashabiyeh, Douma, Harasta and Yarmouk.

On Wednesday the United Nations said it had to abort a delivery of food and polio vaccines to Yarmouk, home to thousands of Palestinian refugees, after the government insisted it use the more dangerous of two routes.

In the mainly rebel-held north of the country, rebels have also cut off some towns loyal to Assad.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week Syria's government and some rebels may be willing to permit humanitarian aid to flow, enforce local ceasefires and take other confidence-building measures ahead of peace talks in Switzerland due to start on January 22.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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