Canadian diplomat Mokhtar Lamani will head the Damascus office of Lakhdar Brahimi, the new United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, a spokesman says.

Ahmad Fawzi said Friday that Lamani, a Montrealer of Moroccan origin, is well-suited for the job having served as a special Arab League envoy to Iraq.

He also served as the Organization of the Islamic Conference's ambassador to the UN in New York from 1998 to 2002.

"If there's anything to do to help the Syrian people, this is an honour for me," Lamani says. "I already did that in 2006 when I was sent as a especial envoy to Iraq. The first reason was to try to help people."


Diplomat Mokhtar Lamani reads the morning newspapers in this file shot from Cairo in 2007. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)

Brahimi took over as envoy to Syria this month, succeeding Kofi Annan, who resigned in frustration over failed efforts to end a civil war that activists say has claimed 23,000 to 26,000 lives.

Lamani acknowledges the task in Syria will be fraught. "It's very, very painful. First, the situation on the ground, what's happening, where are we going — it is very, very difficult to know what the right thing to do is."

The diplomat was interviewed Friday morning on CBC Radio's The Current. Click above to listen to the segment.

With files from CBC News