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Al-Moallem confirms Syria will attend peace conference

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - 12:49

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem confirmed Tuesday to UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that the Syrian government will attend talks in Geneva aimed at ending the country's 31-month conflict, dpa reporterd.

Al-Moallem told Brahimi that Syria would take part in the talks "on the basis of the Syrian people's exclusive right to decide upon their political future and choosing their leadership, rejecting any form of foreign interference," state television reported.

No date has been set for the conference, but the Arab League has said it might take place on November 23-24.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, has sacked deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil, one of two representatives of minor opposition parties in the cabinet.

Jamil, who is known to be close to Russia and is currently in Moscow, was dismissed for "absence... from his place of work without prior permission and failure to perform his duties," state news agency SANA reported, quoting the prime minister's office.

The former deputy prime minister and long-time communist activist had also "engaged in activities and meetings outside the country without coordinating with the government and without respecting official procedures," the office said.

Jamil has made a number of statements suggesting that the war in Syria is at a stalemate.

Earlier, Brahimi met with Hassan Abdel-Azim, the head of the National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change, which, unlike the armed opposition in the country, is calling for political reforms and a peaceful transition.

Brahimi had arrived in Damascus on Monday as part of a regional tour ahead of peace talks planned in Geneva.

The UN envoy was expected to meet President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, "if the meeting at the Foreign Ministry goes well," a Syrian security source told Lebanon's pro-al-Assad al-Mayadeen television.

Syria has accused Brahimi of being biased after he called for "real, not cosmetic change" in Syria and accused al-Assad of "resisting the aspirations of his people."

In a recent interview with al-Mayadeen, Al-Assad had said he would welcome Brahimi back to Damascus as long as "he sticks to his mandate and does not overstep it."

"He is tasked with a mediation mission," al-Assad said. "A mediator should be neutral."

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