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Syrian Government to Attend Peace Talks

FILE - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Fox News channel in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA.
The Syrian government announced on Wednesday that it will participate in peace talks the United Nations has scheduled for January in Geneva.

The foreign ministry said the Syrian government will send a delegation, but stressed that President Bashar al-Assad's government will not be handing over power.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the long-awaited conference earlier this week. Its goal is to forge a mutually agreed-upon transitional government to lead Syria out of a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions more since March 2011.

Who else will take part in the talks is not yet clear.

Syria's main exiled opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said Tuesday it has not made a final decision whether to take part, but insisted that Assad should play no role in the country's future.

The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army said his group will not participate and will not stop its fight to oust Assad when the conference convenes January 22.

The United States, which supports the opposition, together with Syrian ally Russia have been the main proponents behind the talks, working for months to try to arrange the conference as questions about who would participate and under what conditions caused repeated delays.