Syrian opposition says Assad cannot be part of deal

CAIRO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The Syrian National Coalition is willing to negotiate a peace deal to end the war tearing apart the pivotal Arab country but President Bashar al-Assad cannot be a party to any settlemnent, a communique drafted for a major opposition meeting said.

The communique, seen by Reuters, omitted a direct demand for Assad's removal, in a softening of tone from past positions that insisted the president must go before there could be any talks.

The document, to be debated at a meeting of the opposition alliance's leadership starting on Thursday, said Assad and his cohorts must be held accountable for bloodshed and that any peace deal must be under the auspices of the United States and Russia. (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Paul Taylor)