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Syrian opposition undecided on attending talks -group's U.S. representative

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition coalition has not yet decided whether to attend a long-delayed international conference on ending Syria's civil war, the coalition's U.S. representative said on Friday.

Najib Ghadbian acknowledged that an important component of the coalition had decided against taking part, but said other members of the umbrella organization could still decide to go, assuming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not there.

"We have not made a decision in the coalition about whether to go or not, but we agreed on certain determinants of what's acceptable for us to go to Geneva, including our understanding that Assad is not part of that process," Ghadbian said during an appearance at John Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

George Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council, the largest group in the Western-backed opposition coalition, was quoted recently by Agence France-Presse as saying the council would not attend the talks, saying he did not think they would offer anything to the Syrians.

But Ghadbian said the purpose of the conference was a transition to democracy in Syria, and many opposition members thought it could be an opportunity if framed in the right way.

"If the conditions that make it successful are there, we should go," he said. "We want to end this conflict."

Ghadbian said he was unaware that any date had been set for the conference. A senior Syrian official said on Thursday that the meeting was scheduled for November 23 and 24, but co-organizers Russia and the United States said no date had been set.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has suggested the conference be held in mid-November. He will attend a meeting of the "Friends of Syria" including Western and Gulf Arab states in London next week, where the peace talks will be discussed.

A recent deal for Syria to scrap its chemical weapons rekindled efforts to convene the conference, dubbed "Geneva 2," which Russia and the United States have been trying to organize since May to end a war that has killed over 100,000 people.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/131018/syrian-opposition-undecided-attending-talks-groups-us-represent