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US 'very hopeful' Syria peace meet will happen by year-end

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Washington is optimistic that a long-delayed peace conference for Syria can take place by the end of 2013, a senior official said Tuesday.

"We are very hopeful that this conference will take place before the end of the year," the US official said on condition of anonymity.

The comment came after UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi spent a day of intense discussions with senior diplomats in Geneva aimed at preparing a new international meeting to try to end the Syrian conflict.

Brahimi expressed disappointment after the meetings that no date had yet been set for the conference, which had initially been expected to take place in June but has been repeatedly delayed amid stark disagreement over the premises for the talks and the list of participants.

The US official stressed Tuesday night that Washington was "not at all disappointed" that the date had not been clinched at the meeting, stressing that it was understandable that the splintered opposition needed a bit more time to pull together a representative delegation.

"This is about building the future of Syria. That is a long, difficult, complicated process. If it takes the opposition coalition a few more weeks to prepare themselves in the way they feel they need to .. we want to support them to do that," the official said.

As for a controversial Russian demand to give Iran a seat at the negotiating table, the US official stressed Washington's position that only parties who have accepted a never-implemented transition plan agreed during an initial conference last year should be allowed to take part in the so-called Geneva II conference.

Asked whether Washington would accept Iran at the table if it did publicly accept that plan, which calls for a mutually-agreed-upon transitional government to take over the reins in Damascus, the official said: "We'll see."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131105/us-very-hopeful-syria-peace-meet-will-happen-year-end