Syria envoy meets Assad as peace talks falter

Reuters

BEIRUT, Oct 30 (Reuters) - United Nations envoy LakhdarBrahimi met President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday in the Syriancapital Damascus in an effort to shore up support for falteringpeace talks.

Khawla Mattar said Brahimi met Assad but gave no detailsabout the meeting.

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

Brahimi has angered the Syrian opposition by saying thatIran, Assad's main backer during the war, should attend Geneva.

Rebels and the political opposition say that anynegotiations should be based on Assad's removal.

Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go totalks that set no preconditions.

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

"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.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Tuesday that Syriawould attend the planned peace talks but it was up to Syrians todecide their political future and leadership.

State television quoted Moualem as saying that Syrians alsorejected "any form of foreign intervention".

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