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Syria Ready for Cease-Fire in Aleppo

Syria's government says it has given Russia a plan for a cease-fire in the country's largest city of Aleppo and an exchange of prisoners with Syrian rebels.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said during his visit to Moscow Friday he had turned over the proposals in preparation for next week's peace talks with rebels.

The move comes as Syria's main Western-backed opposition coalition is meeting in Istanbul to vote on whether to attend next week's peace talks in Geneva.

Opposition leaders so far have refused to attend talks without a prior commitment that President Bashar al-Assad will step down.

The Syrian National Coalition is under heavy U.S. pressure to attend the conference, which is aimed at forming a transitional government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the talks are the "best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution."

Kerry also warned the Syrian president Friday the U.S. is not out of options to pressure his government to comply with the goals set in the first Geneva conference.



"They can bluster. They can protest. They can put out distortions. The bottom line is we are going to Geneva to implement Geneva 1. And if Assad doesn't do that, he will invoke a greater response in various ways from various people over a period of time."



The Syrian government considers all rebel forces to be terrorists, and has tried to shift the focus of the proposed peace talks from forming a new government to fighting extremism.



The fighting is raging in Syria's northwest, with the conflict spilling over into Lebanon. Rocket fire in Lebanese border towns killed seven people on Friday.

Speaking after a trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. General Assembly Friday the Syrian people need peace and depend on the U.N.'s solidarity for survival.

He said the U.N. is "intensifying efforts" to bring the parties together in Geneva next week and is pressing for the sides to move to a transitional governing body to stop the violence.

Syrian Foreign Minister Moallem confirmed Friday that Damascus will attend the January 22 conference.




"As I already confirmed yesterday, the Syrian delegation will go to Geneva, as we believe that a peace settlement is the only way out of the conflict in Syria."



Moallem also shot back at Washington, which he said was "supporting terrorist groups" in Syria's civil war.

Kerry said Thursday the U.S. also is concerned about the rise of extremism in Syria, but insisted Damascus is to blame for the unrest that has left over 120,000 people dead.

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