Syrian opposition bloc rejects talks

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iol pic wld syria -conflict-talks AFP Hassan Abdel Azim, left, of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria and Rajaa Nasser, right, secretary of the of Syrian opposition's National Coordinating Body for the Forces of Democratic Change, briefs the press in Damascus on November 19, 2012. Picture: LOUAI BESHARA

Damascus -

Syria's regime-tolerated opposition has said it has turned down an invitation from the National Coalition to attend peace talks this week in Switzerland.

In a statement issued on Monday, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change said its chief Hassan Abdel Azim had been asked a day earlier by Coalition president Ahmad Jarba to join the talks in a single delegation.

“The answer of the NCBDC's general co-ordinator... was to refuse to attend the conference in a single delegation with the Coalition,” the group said.

The NCBDC had on January 14 said it would not attend the so-called Geneva II talks under the Coalition umbrella.

The group slammed the lack of preparatory meetings for the talks, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, and the Coalition's last-minute decision to attend.

The NCBDC said it would require “communication with democratic opposition groups inside and outside Syria - especially the Supreme Kurdish Council, the Coalition and independent dissidents - to form a single, balanced delegation”.

It described the Coalition's decision to attend as “late”, comparing it to a “C-section birth”, and said Geneva II should be postponed “until the right conditions... are met”.

The NCBDC also said President Bashar al-Assad's regime must release “a large number of prisoners, especially women, children and detainees who have no link with weapons or violence”.

Leading NCBDC members Abdel Aziz al-Khair and Raja Nasser have been in custody for several months.

The Coalition confirmed late on Monday it would attend the peace talks, only after the United Nations withdrew its invitation to Iran, a key Assad backer.

But the main bloc in the exiled opposition group, the Syrian National Council, has said it was quitting the umbrella group in protest over the peace talks with the regime. - Sapa-AFP

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