10/30/2013 07:03 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Syrian President Bashar Assad Meets With UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi As Peace Talks Falter


BEIRUT, Oct 30 (Reuters) - United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday in the Syrian capital Damascus in an effort to shore up support for faltering peace talks.

Khawla Mattar said Brahimi met Assad but gave no details about the meeting.

The "Geneva 2" talks, tentatively planned for Nov. 23, aim to start a political process to end the civil war in Syria in which more than 100,000 people have been killed.

Brahimi has angered the Syrian opposition by saying that Iran, Assad's main backer during the war, should attend Geneva.

Rebels and the political opposition say that any negotiations should be based on Assad's removal.

Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go to talks that set no preconditions.

Mohammad Riza Shebani, the Iranian ambassador to Syria, told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that Iran was ready to attend the meeting in Geneva.

"Of course, everyone knows Iran's efforts to help a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran's absence from this meeting does not benefit the meeting," he said.

The Syrian conflict began in early 2011 as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and forced millions to flee.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Tuesday that Syria would attend the planned peace talks but it was up to Syrians to decide their political future and leadership.

State television quoted Moualem as saying that Syrians also rejected "any form of foreign intervention".



Captions By Reuters

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