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Syria's Assad Meets UN Envoy

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is warning the U.N.-Arab League envoy that proposed peace talks can only succeed if other countries end their support for rebel groups.

Mr. Assad was quoted on state-run television following a brief meeting Wednesday morning with Lakhdar Brahimi.

The meeting came on the third day of Brahimi's first visit to Damascus in almost a year. The U.N. envoy has been on a regional tour trying to drum up support for the so-called "Geneva 2" peace talks.

Earlier Wednesday, Brahimi also met with Iran's ambassador to Syria, Muhammad Ridha Sheibani. Brahimi had earlier suggested Iran be given a seat at the table for a Syrian peace conference.



The United States and Russia have been pushing for those talks to take place next month. Syria's rebels and opposition groups have yet to commit to any talks, rejecting any process that does not remove Mr. Assad from power.

American University International Relations Professor Robert Pastor says such distrust is just one of the many issues diplomats will have to overcome for peace talks to have any chance.



"The most important is how do you get all the key parties to the table? What preconditions do you set or what preconditions do you eliminate? If you have one precondition that Assad cannot either participate in any form nor can his government nor can he participate in an electoral process then this is a recipe for failure."



Pastor also tells VOA the U.S. will likely also have to find ways to make any "Geneva 2" talks more inclusive.



"You have to find a way to get Assad there. You have to find space for both the Russians and the Iranians to feel they have a place at the table and they have a stake in the process and the outcome."



More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 while millions more have been forced to flee their homes.

On Tuesday, the global charity Save the Children warned of a polio outbreak in Syria.

The United Nations has confirmed 10 cases of polio in young children in the northeast and officials say about 500,000 Syrian children have not been vaccinated against polio.

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