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Kerry Presses US-Russian Plan for Syrian Peace Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Wednesday in the Jordanian capital with senior diplomats from 11 nations, as part of a U.S.-Russian push to end Syria's civil war.

Kerry will address the Friends of Syria grouping, which backs the Syrian opposition, to build consensus for an international peace conference that organizers want to hold next month in Geneva.

Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov want to bring together the Syrian opposition and the government of President Bashar al-Assad for talks on a new transitional authority aimed at replacing Mr. Assad. Neither the opposition nor the government have yet committed to peace talks, and analysts say it is far from certain that such talks will soon materialize.

In Washington, senior U.S. analysts describe Wednesday's Amman meeting as part of broader American effort to work with allies on the Syrian conflict. A senior U.S. official told reporters the meeting will include many of the same foreign ministers who gathered in Istanbul last month to voice support for the opposition and back Mr. Assad's departure.

The official voiced certainty that the meeting will address the Syrian refugee crisis, which the United Nations says has forced one million Syrian civilians into makeshift camps on the borders of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Jordan says top envoys from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan and Qatar will attend the Wednesday conference. Diplomats from Saudi Ariabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates will also participate.

The issue of Iran's involvement in the proposed Geneva conference has divided the United States and Russia. Moscow says Iran should take part, while the United States has in the past objected to Iranian involvement. However, U.S. officials say no delegations have yet been ruled in or out of the conference. France said last week it does not want Iran there.

On Tuesday, Secretary Kerry held talks in Oman on the Syrian crisis, and on Oman's planned $2.1 billion purchase of an air defense system from U.S. defense firm Raytheon.

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