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Syrian opposition to attend Geneva peace conference

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Michael Georgy

(Reuters) - The Syrian National Coalition opposition group will attend the "Geneva 2" talks in January aimed at ending the civil war, the group's president, Ahmad Jarba, said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters and the Associated Press, he also said regional power Iran should only be allowed to attend if it stopped taking part in the bloodshed in Syria and withdrew its forces and proxies.

The Coalition had previously said it was ready to attend if humanitarian aid corridors were set up and political prisoners released. It insists that President Bashar al-Assad can play no future role in Syria.

"We are now ready to go to Geneva," said Jarba on a visit to Cairo, adding that the opposition views the Geneva talks as a step to a leadership transition and a "genuine democratic transformation in Syria".

"There is no way that the individual responsible for the destruction of the country can be responsible for building the country," said Jarba, referring to Assad.

Syria said on Wednesday that Western countries which also demand that Assad step down should either stop "dreaming" or forget attending the peace talks.

Jarba rejected the idea of Iran attending "under the current reality".

"Iran is responsible for and takes part in the killing in Syria in a very clear way. It killed thousands of Syrians with its Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Hizbollah, which is considered a terrorist group," he said.

"If Iran is serious about resolving the Syrian crisis, it must first withdraw its Revolutionary Guards and (Lebanese) Hizbollah mercenaries."

Iran is the main backer, along with Russia, of Assad during a conflict that has lasted more than two years, killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions more. Tehran has said it would attend Geneva 2 if invited and on Wednesday called for a ceasefire ahead of the talks scheduled for January 22.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/131127/syrian-opposition-attend-geneva-peace-conference