Syria opposition lays preconditions for peace talks

Reuters

* International envoy says no preconditions for peace talks

* Syria opposition says Iran must not attend

* Opposition calls for more weapons

By Yasmine Saleh and Ayman Samir

CAIRO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition set terms onSunday for attending peace talks to end the Syrian civil war, ina move that throws the proposed conference into furtherconfusion after the international envoy said there should be nopreconditions.

The long-delayed talks - known as Geneva 2 - are meant tobring Syria's warring sides to the negotiating table, but havebeen repeatedly delayed because of disputes between worldpowers, divisions among the opposition and irreconcilablepositions of Assad and the rebels.

Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba said theopposition would not attend unless there was a clear timeframefor President Bashar al-Assad to leave power. He also said theycould not accept the presence of Iran.

"We have decided not to enter Geneva talks unless it is withdignity, and unless there is a successful transfer of power witha specific timeframe, and without the occupier Iran at thenegotiating table," Jarba told an Arab League emergency meetingof foreign minister in Cairo.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the international envoy for Syria, has saidhe hoped the conference could still be held in the next fewweeks despite obstacles.

Though he had in the past said he thought Assad would not bepart of a transitional government that Geneva 2 would attempt toinstall, he said on Friday that his opinions had no bearing onthe parametres for the conference.

There is also discord among world powers over whether Iranshould be invited to the talks. Tehran has said it is ready tocome and Brahimi says the U.N. preferred that Iran attend butthere had been no agreement on that yet.

A senior State Department official, speaking ahead of U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Cairo and Riyadh, saidthe top U.S. diplomat would make clear to the Saudis that Iranwould not be welcome to attend the Syria peace talks unless itendorsed a past agreement that would see Assad give up power.

"Iran has not done that, and without that even we couldn'tconsider the possibility of their participating," the officialadded, stressing: "It is a question of just making sure theyunderstand the details of how firm our position is."

CALL FOR WEAPONS

In Cairo, an Arab League draft communique called on theSyrian opposition to attend the conference.

"It (Arab League) decided to call on all sides of the Syrianopposition under the leadership of the Syrian National Coalition... to accelerate the formation of the negotiating delegation".

In Cairo, Jarba urged world powers to supply Syriansfighting Assad with weapons in the conflict that has so farclaimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.

"We demand a clear decision on supplying the Syrian peoplewith weapons to fight the hostility which gets worse hour byhour ... We guarantee that these weapons will not fall into thewrong hands."

The growing influence of radical Islamist fighters and thedisarray of rebel forces have made Western powers wary ofintervening directly in the civil war by supplying weapons ortroops.

While some rebel tensions stem from contrasting ideologicaloutlooks, most infighting centres around rival claims over thecontrol of territory, smuggling and other spoils of war.

Arab and Western officials have said that internationalpowers were unlikely to meet their goal of holding theconference in November.

Even if Jarba were to attend the Geneva 2 meetings, he hasno authority over the rebel brigades battling to overthrowAssad.

The main rebel brigades have announced their opposition tothe conference if it does not result in Assad's removal.

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