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    Kerry Travels to Mideast as Parties Weigh Syria Peace Conference Plan

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels to the Middle East on Monday, as efforts to bring about a Syrian peace conference proposed by the United States and Russia face several key meetings this week.

    Kerry will be in Jordan for Wednesday's Friends of Syria meeting, where nations backing the Syrian opposition will consider the talks that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have proposed for next month.

    Their plan envisions bringing together the opposition and the Syrian government in search of a new, transitional authority to end more than two years of fighting. Neither side has said whether they will attend.

    The opposition plans to make its decision during a meeting Thursday in Turkey.

    The list of other possible attendees is still unclear, with Russia calling for Syrian ally Iran to be in attendance, while France says it does not want Iran to take part in the talks.



    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he will not step down as part of any political solution to the crisis, insisting the Syrian people decide who leads the country through elections. The country is scheduled to hold a presidential vote next year.

    The opposition wants Mr. Assad excluded from power in any agreement on Syria's future.

    Also Thursday, the Arab League's committee on Syria will hold a meeting in Egypt to discuss the proposed peace conference.

    The organization suspended Mr. Assad's government in 2011, and awarded the country's seat to the opposition in March. Most Arab League members have called for Mr. Assad to step down.

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