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Syrian opposition leader calls for dialogue, wants direct talks with Assad

Syria's main opposition group wants Assad to "leave peacefully," the group's leader said today.

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Sheikh Moaz Al-Khabib, President of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's main opposition leader, Moaz Alkhatib, on Monday said he is prepared to talk to President Bashar al-Assad about ways for him to "leave peacefully," according to Reuters.

Alkhatib, who came under fire after he first voiced willingness to negotiate with Assad in comments last week, hit back at critics on Monday. He said it was not  "treachery" to seek dialogue with Assad, whose forces have been locked in a brutal conflict with an armed anti-government uprising in violence that has killed over 60,000 people, reported Reuters

"The ball is now in the regime's court," Agence-France Press quoted Alkhatib as telling Al Jazeera. "They will either say yes or no." Alkhatib said Assad's departure was a precondition to talks, according to Reuters.

Syria has not yet responded, said the Associated Press

The move from Alkhatib, a moderate Islamic preacher, signals a renewed effort to end the crisis there. International efforts in that regard have not been successful. 

"The big powers have no vision," the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) leader told Al Jazeera after speaking with top Russian, US and Iranian officials over the weekend, reported Reuters

Russia and Iran are allied with Assad, whereas the US has offered guarded support for groups like the SNC. Iran has offered to help moderate between Assad and the opposition.

"We welcome any initiative that leads to dialogue," Iran's National Security Council head Saeed Jalili said Monday, according to AP.

The United Nations has repeatedly voiced concern over the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria, where many thousands lack necessities for survival.

Over 700,000 Syrians have fled their homeland over the past 22 months and now live in difficult conditions in refugee camps in neighboring countries. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130204/new-syrian-opposition-leader-calls-dialogue-wants-dir