• Syria opposition wants pressure on Damascus

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    ISTANBUL: Syria’s splintered opposition coalition insisted it would not go to peace talks in Geneva unless pressure was brought to bear on Damascus to abide by the outcome.

    “We have always said that we are fully committed to Geneva. But we are worried that if we go there the Assad regime is not serious about the implementation of Geneva,” said coalition spokesman Khaled Saleh.

    He was speaking as the opposition battling to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met in Istanbul to decide whether to attend a peace conference that world powers want to hold in Geneva.

    The meeting involving the main umbrella group, the National Coalition, and due to run into Sunday took place as rebels retook a strategic base in northern Syria.

    The United Nations-Arab League envoy tasked with trying to quell the Syrian conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi, warned earlier this week that bitter rival camps in the opposition must forge a united front for the proposed peace talks, dubbed “Geneva 2.”

    World powers unsettled by the vicious, two-and-a-half year war in Syria have been pushing for the peace negotiations between the warring sides and Arab states to take place before the end of the year.

    But the initiative has been stalled by the opposition’s internal dissent—robbing it of credibility internationally and in the eyes of the rebels it is meant to represent—and its demand for the talks to call for Assad’s ouster.

    A key faction in the opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council, has baldly refused to take part, and has threatened to break from the grouping if some members go.

    Foreign ministers from 11 Western and Arab nations holding a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Britain last month to pave the way for Geneva 2 agreed Assad should have no role in any future Syrian government.

    But that failed to convince the opposition to commit to Geneva.

    AFP

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