Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S., Arab League push Syria conference

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LONDON -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN Arab League envoy for Syria said Monday an international conference to set up a Syrian transitional government must be organized urgently and held as soon as possible.

"There has to be a transition government, there has to be a new governing entity in Syria in order to permit the possibility of peace," Kerry said. He said it was imperative to get the so-called Geneva II conference organized by a mid-November target the United Nations has set.

Kerry and envoy Lakhdar Brahimi spoke to reporters after meeting at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Britain.

"There can be, there will be, a political solution if everyone gets together and works for it," Brahimi said. "Very soon we have to set a precise date."

Syria's civil war, now in its third year, has killed more than 100,000 people.

A car bomb in a rebel-held town in the northwest of the country killed at least a dozen people Monday, a day after two car bombs exploded in Damascus near the state television building. Car bombs are becoming more common in the conflict.

"We believe it is urgent to set a date, convene the conference and work towards a new Syria," Kerry said.

He said Syrian President Bashar Assad "has lost the legitimacy to be able to be a cohesive force that could bring people together."

The planned Geneva II conference is aimed at implementing an agreement hammered out last year in Geneva, Switzerland, that calls for the establishment of a transitional government that would run Syria and prepare it for democratic elections.

Brahimi said he'll travel to the Middle East this week to see representatives of all sides to try to plan and set a specific date for the meeting.

Kerry was in London on the last stop of an extended two-week overseas trip that has taken him to Japan, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Afghanistan.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 A9

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