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Syria mediator praises opposition's 'positive' talks offer

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

International Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has welcomed a "positive" offer by the Syrian opposition chief to hold peace talks with the Damascus regime, albeit with conditions.

"This is an inspired personal initiative by Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, despite the various reactions from other members of his group," Brahimi said in an interview to be published in the French daily La Croix on Thursday.

"It's a positive element that has been judged as such by the international community, Western countries as well as Russia and Iran."

He added however that it was not enough for a political solution.

The peace offering by Khatib, leader of the opposition National Coalition, has been welcomed by Washington and the Arab League but it was flatly rejected by a key opposing faction in Syria, and President Bashar al-Assad has yet to comment on it.

Asked if Brahimi could see an end in sight to Syria's bloodshed -- which according to UN figures has killed over 60,000 people in nearly two years -- the UN-Arab League envoy said: "Not for the moment."

Khatib, who is seeking to end Assad's iron-fisted rule, recently announced that his group was ready for dialogue with the Damascus regime -- subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.

In a groundbreaking move over the weekend, Khatib held his first direct talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country, like Iran, is a key Syria ally.

Brahimi said Lavrov and new US Secretary of State John Kerry would also meet to discuss Syria in the near future.

"The Americans and the Russians are talking," he said.

Brahimi also raised the prospect of Syria moving from a presidential to a parliamentary government to "end the ambiguity" over Assad's future.

In reference to an international peace plan put forward in Geneva last June -- and approved by Moscow and Washington -- Brahimi said it called for a transitional government but "had set aside the issue of the role left" for Assad.

"This constructive ambiguity must be lifted at some point by saying that the transitional government will have full executive powers and that there will be no outside powers. This transitional government will run the country until elections are organised," Brahimi said.

"I would add that if you move from a presidential system to a parliamentary system, the question of... Bashar al-Assad no longer arises."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/syria-mediator-praises-oppositions-positive-talks-offer