US, Russia fail to agree Syria peace talks date

Updated: 2013-11-06 04:30


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Assad defiance

Damascus reiterated on Monday that Assad would stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed "Geneva 2" conference.

"Syria - the state, the nation and the people - will remain and ... Assad will be president of this country all the time they are dreaming that he isn't," the Syrian state news agency quoted Information Minister Omran Zoabi saying late on Monday.

International efforts to end the conflict in Syria, which has killed well over 100,000 people, driven millions from their homes and further destabilized the region, have floundered.

"One thing is certain - there is no military solution for the conflict in Syria," US. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Warsaw on Tuesday, asserting again that Assad must go.

"I don't know how anybody believes the opposition is going to give mutual consent to Assad to continue," he said.

Russia said Iran, Assad's main sponsor, must be invited to any peace talks, after the main Syrian political opposition leader said his coalition would not attend if Tehran took part.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also rejected a demand by Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba for a time-frame for Assad to quit, ruling out any such preconditions for "Geneva 2".

Moscow has defended Assad from Western and Arab efforts to impose U.N. sanctions. Having been a major arms supplier to the Syrian government, Moscow notes that attempts to end the four-decade rule of the Assad family have turned parts of Syria over to rebel groups controlled by Islamist militants.

The civil war has inflamed a sectarian divide in the Middle East. Sunni Muslims form the majority in Syria and provide the bulk of the rebel forces. They have backing from Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, while Shi'ite, non-Arab Iran backs Assad.