Assad tells U.N. envoy peace talks can succeed only if aid to rebels stops


BEIRUT, Oct 30 (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad toldU.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday that talks to endSyria's civil war would only succeed if foreign powers endedsupport for rebels fighting to overthrow him.

Brahimi is in Damascus to met Syrian officials in an effortto shore up support for the faltering peace talks.

State television quoted Assad as telling Brahimi,"thesuccess of any political solution is tied to stopping supportfor terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states".Assad's government calls the armed opposition terrorists.

The "Geneva 2" talks, tentatively planned for Nov. 23, aimto start a political process to end the civil war in which morethan 100,000 people have been killed.

Brahimi has angered the opposition by saying that Iran,Assad's main backer during the war, should attend Geneva. Therebels and political opposition say that any negotiations shouldbe based on Assad's removal.

Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go totalks that set no preconditions. Assad said that "only theSyrian people are authorised to shape the future of Syria."

Mohammad Riza Shebani, the Iranian ambassador to Syria, toldreporters in Damascus on Wednesday that Iran was ready to attendthe Geneva meeting.

"Of course, everyone knows Iran's efforts to help apolitical solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran's absence fromthis meeting does not benefit the meeting," he said.

The Syrian conflict began in early 2011 as a peacefulprotest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, buthas degenerated into a sectarian civil war and forced millionsto flee.

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