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Assad tells UN envoy Brahimi 'support for terrorist groups' must stop

Lakhdar Brahimi, the Arab League-UN envoy, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the first time in nearly a year.

Syria spy 2013 10 23Enlarge
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attends an Arab-African joint summit in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte in 2010. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met Arab League-UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus Wednesday, according to a Syrian government official.

The two men have not had direct contact in ten months. After Brahimi’s last trip to Syria in December 2012, he observed that 40 years of rule by the Assad family was “too long,” which angered Syrian officials.

Brahimi and Assad talked about the prospects for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 100,000 people and turned some 2 million Syrians into refugees.

"For any political solution to be successful, it is crucial to halt support for terrorist groups and the countries that sponsor them, facilitate the entry of terrorist mercenaries and offer them money, weapons and logistical support," Assad was quoted by Al-Ikhbariya television as telling Brahimi.

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"The Syrian people alone are entitled to draw the future of Syria. Any solution must be approved by them and reflect their wishes away from any foreign intervention," Assad continued.

"This is paramount to prepare the circumstances for dialogue and put clear mechanisms that achieve this goal," he said.

Brahimi is on a regional tour in an effort to rally support for the proposed “Geneva II” peace talks, designed to end the Syrian conflict. Neither Assad’s regime nor the fractured Syrian opposition have confirmed they will attend the talks.

Syrian state TV reported Tuesday that Assad dismissed the deputy prime minister, Qadri Jamil, for acting without government permission when he met former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford in Geneva over the weekend.

Powerful Islamist rebel groups fighting on the ground in Syria disavowed the talks earlier this week, calling negotiation "treason."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/131030/arab-league-un-envoy-meets-syrian-president-first-tim