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Kerry urges Syria opposition to join peace talks

On the eve of a key meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday made a powerful plea to the divided Syrian opposition to join landmark peace talks aimed at installing a new government. Next week's peace conference in Switzerland was "the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution," Kerry said in a surprise statement to reporters.

Kerry urges Syria opposition to join peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry appealed Thursday to the divided Syrian opposition to join next week's peace talks, and vowed they could veto any names for an interim leadership. "On the eve of the Syrian opposition coalition general assembly meeting tomorrow to decide whether to participate in Geneva in the peace conference, the United States ... urges a positive vote," Kerry said in a surprise statement to reporters.

Kerry urges Syria opposition to join peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry appealed Thursday to the divided Syrian opposition to join next week's peace talks, and vowed they could veto any names for an interim leadership. "On the eve of the Syrian opposition coalition general assembly meeting tomorrow to decide whether to participate in Geneva in the peace conference, the United States ... urges a positive vote," Kerry said in a surprise statement to reporters.

Western intelligence talking to Damascus

Western intelligence officials visited Syria to discuss security cooperation with the regime against Islamist extremists among the Syrian opposition, a senior Damascus official claimed to the BBC. US officials denied the report, which comes amid mounting concern in Western capitals about Syria's civil war drawing in foreign radical fighters who may return to carry out attacks in the homelands.

Deaths, refugees and damage: Syria's crisis in figures

More than 130,000 people have been killed, at least 500,000 wounded, millions uprooted and the economy devastated in Syria's nearly three-year conflict. Key figures follow on the casualties and damage in the conflict, which started in March 2011 with peaceful protests for reform that soon escalated into all-out civil war after they were brutally repressed. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Syria donors conference in Kuwait on Wednesday that nearly half of Syria's population needs urgent humanitarian help as the situation deteriorates. CASUALTIES

Western intelligence talking to Damascus

Western intelligence officials have visited Syria to discuss security cooperation with the regime, its deputy foreign minister told the BBC as the West worries about Islamist extremists among the Syrian opposition. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the BBC that the visits to Damascus pointed to a "schism" between what Western politicians were saying about President Bashar al-Assad's regime and what Western security services were doing in practice.

245,000 Syrians besieged, face food shortages: UN official

Around 245,000 Syrians are living in towns and cities under siege and facing extreme hardships, including food shortages, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in Kuwait on Wednesday. She was speaking at a donor conference aimed at raising $6.5 billion (4.8 billion euros) for Syrians affected by the country's conflict, which has killed more than 130,000 people since March 2011. "I am deeply troubled by the persistent reports of people running out of food in those besieged communities, where some 245,000 people live," Amos said.

West opens security contacts with Syria: deputy minister

DUBAI (Reuters) - The intelligence services of some Western countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have visited Damascus to discuss security cooperation with his government, Syria's deputy foreign minister said in remarks broadcast on Wednesday. "I will not specify (which countries) but many of them have visited Damascus, yes," the deputy minister, Faisal Mekdad, said in an interview with the BBC. Asked about the report, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry indicated he was not aware of such contacts.

Hollande says 700 from France fighting in Syria

French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that 700 people had left France to join the fighting in Syria in what he called a "worrying" trend. "A certain number of young Frenchmen and young foreigners living in France... are fighting in Syria -- 700 are listed, that's a lot. Some are dead," Hollande told a press conference in Paris. Hollande said young people needed to be warned about the dangers of going to Syria and that France needed to "fight against a certain number of networks and havens that sustain terrorism".

Women must be part of Syria talks, activists say

Syrian activists said Monday that the voice of women from the war-ravaged nation must not be sidelined at peace talks due to start next week in Switzerland. "We have to take part in the whole process, from A to Z," Syrian Women's League member Sabah Alhallak told reporters in Geneva. Alhallak and around 50 female campaigners from both inside Syria and the refugee community, held a two-day meeting behind closed doors in the Swiss city Sunday and Monday.
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