World News

Syria Peace Push Continues as Complications Linger


United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is pushing forward with a regional tour aimed at building support for a Syrian peace conference, amid lingering questions about who would take part and under what conditions.

He is meeting Wednesday with officials in Jordan to discuss the proposed conference for negotiating a political solution for Syria. Brahimi also plans to visit Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Syria before holding meetings in two weeks with the members of the U.N. Security Council in Geneva.

On Tuesday, officials from 11 nations known as the Friends of Syria met in London with members of the Syrian opposition to urge those opposed to President Bashar al-Assad to take part in the peace talks.

The opposition has so far resisted, and Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba said there can be no talks until there is a clear plan for Mr. Assad to leave.



''If some countries would feel the discomfort from the humanitarian situation, due to al-Assad's massacres and wish to wash their hands at the expense of dirtying our hands with a humiliating position, you will hear us say no five times rather than three. No negotiations, no reconciliation, no recognition, no retreat and no to international isolation. However, if the aim was to remove the criminal from power and the war criminals are tried, then we welcome Geneva 2. These are our true demands and this is where we stand, and to build on these principles, together we will rid Syria and the region of the spreading fire. These are requests not conditions. But Geneva 2 cannot be a success without these.''





U.S. and British officials again urged all sides to sit down and talk, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague adding Mr. Assad will eventually have to step down.



"We are as clear as he is that Assad has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria."



President Assad said in an interview Monday he sees no reason why he should not run for reelection next year.

Meanwhile Wednesday, activists say Syrian authorities released 13 women held in Syrian prisons as part of a three-way hostage exchange. It began Saturday with Syrian rebels releasing nine Lebanese men held hostage for 17 months in exchange for two Turkish pilots detained in Lebanon since August.

In The Hague, the joint OPCW-United Nations mission tasked with destroying Syria's chemical weapons program and arsenal said it has visited 18 of 23 sites declared by the government and destroyed production equipment in many of the locations.

Syria has until Sunday to submit a plan for the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile. The OPCW will then set a timetable for the goal of destroying all of Syria's chemical arsenal by mid-2014.

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