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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian Pro-Government, Opposition Groups Meet in Tehran

RIA Novosti

13:59 19/11/2012 DUBAI, November 19 (RIA Novosti) - Syrian government representatives and opposition political parties are taking part in a peace conference in the Iranian capital Tehran to find a negotiated solution to the 21-month-old crisis in Syria, Irna news agency reported on Monday.

About 200 representatives of Syrian society, international experts and foreign ambassadors to Iran are taking part in the conference, which began on Sunday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi welcomed the conference as a new initiative to meet the Syrian people's legitimate demands.

The Syrian people's rights to hold elections, choose their president and enjoy freedom of the press and political parties have been acknowledged by the government, which has expressed its decision to carry out such reforms, Salehi told Fars news agency.

The delegates have agreed to establish a committee to promote national dialog in Syria and extend the talks to those opposition figures who were invited to but did not attend the Tehran meeting for various reasons, Salehi said.

Rebel groups in Syria’s second-largest city Aleppo refused to recognize the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which declared itself the legitimate representative of the Syrian people on November 11, in a video address by their leadership posted on the Syrian Opposition Center website.

Another group, the Popular Front for Change and Liberation previously also refused to recognize the coalition which it says is a product of conspiracy with the West.

A number of disparate Syrian opposition groups formed the coalition to represent all opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, following the November 11 meeting in Doha, Qatar. The Qatari government has been one of the strongest backers of the anti-Assad opposition.

The Syrian government has previously said it is ready to sit at the negotiating table with opposition groups, as long as they cease fighting. The opposition has maintained Assad must go before any talks can take place.

The Assad regime has been locked in a bloody conflict with anti-government rebel forces since March 2011. According to UN estimates, around 35,000 people have been killed since the violence began.

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