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Assad will remain in power despite Geneva peace talks, Syrian government says

Syria's information minister told state-owned media that anyone expecting Assad to step down after Geneva II was misguided.

Syria civil war shelling aleppo 12 03 13Enlarge
Rebel fighters fortify a barricade with destroyed buses in the Salah al-Din neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, December 4, 2013. Nearly 126,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, according to the Observatory, and the UN human rights chief said on December 2, that there was evidence of both war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no intention of relinquishing power despite his government’s participation in next month’s peace talks in Geneva.

Speaking to state-owned media Wednesday, the embattled leader’s representative said anyone expecting otherwise should skip the Swiss conference set for Jan. 22.

Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi told SANA that Assad would be at the helm of any transitional government that was created at the so-called Geneva II conference.

“If anyone thinks we are going to Geneva II to hand the keys to Damascus over [to the opposition], they might as well not go,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The nearly three-year-old civil war has killed more than 125,000, according to estimates from the Syrian Observatory, and displaced millions more.

The United Nations humanitarian chief said Wednesday that relief efforts to feed and clothe refugees, and heal the sick and wounded, must continue to improve despite modest gains.

Valerie Amos told diplomats more aid convoys were reaching Syria, but an estimated 2.5 million people were still in need of help, AFP said.

“The brutality of this conflict is unacceptable,” she told a closed-door meeting, according to a source. “Even war has rules. In this conflict, the rules are not being respected. … Holding civilians hostage to the conflict is not acceptable.

“The government must be convinced to allow humanitarian access.”

Amos accused Assad’s government of preventing access from the Turkish border, and delaying visas for aid workers.

Meanwhile, the vice president of the Syrian National Coalition resigned this week, the latest high-ranking resignation from the opposition group.

Suhair Atassi will remain a SNC member and head up the Assistance Coordination Unit, The Daily Star in Lebanon said.

There was little explanation given for Atassi’s resignation, although some accused her of conflict of interest, according to The Daily Star.

While politics played out around Syria's borders, fighting raged Wednesday inside the nation, with at least 17 dead after a rocket attack in Aleppo.

The shells landed in government-controlled areas of the northern city, according to Reuters.

More from GlobalPost: How the Syrian war has become a terrible, tragic mess

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/131204/bashar-assad-remain-power-despite-geneva-ii-peace-tal