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Diplomats, Syrian Opposition Discuss Proposed Peace Conference

New efforts to organize peace talks aimed at ending the war in Syria are underway in London, but diplomats say obstacles remain.

Officials from 11 nations known as the Friends of Syria have been meeting with members of the Syrian opposition. The group includes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who says the only way to end the war, and the humanitarian crisis, is a negotiated settlement.

But opposition groups like the Syrian National Coalition continue to express reservations. Coalition spokesman Khalid Saleh spoke from the group's offices in Istanbul as the London talks got underway.

"We believe that there is a very important element that is missing from the Geneva Communique, it is very silent on the issue of what's going to happen to Bashar Assad during the transitional period, what's going to happen to him in a future Syria. We have made it very clear: in order for us to have peace and stability, law and order in Syria, the person who is responsible for killing over 120,000 Syrians can not have place in a transitional government, can not have any place in a future political process in Syria."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also cast doubts on possible peace talks in an interview that aired on Monday night on Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV.

"There is no date or factors that will help for it (the conference) to be held. Who are the groups that will participate in Geneva? What is their relationship with the Syrian people? Do they represent the Syrian people? Do they represent the country that made them?"

During meetings in Paris Monday with Qatari and Saudi officials, Secretary of State Kerry warned there can be no peaceful solution as long as Mr. Assad remains in power.

Kerry also criticized the Syrian president for suggesting he will run again in 2014.

"Now I don't know anyone who believes the opposition will ever consent to Bashar al-Assad being part of that [transitional] government. And if he [Bashar al-Assad] thinks he's going to solve problems by running for re-election I can say to him, I think with certainty, this war will not end as long as that's the case or he [Assad] is there."

Kerry has been working with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to try to arrange peace talks in Geneva by the end of next month.

Opposition leaders have threatened to boycott the proposed conference unless Mr. Assad agrees to step down.

Tuesday's meeting in London brings together officials from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

The fighting in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and forced millions from their homes since March 2011.

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