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MIDEAST > Syria says talks with opposition cannot have 'preconditions'

DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse

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Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi speaks to reporters during a press conference in Damascus on December 23, 2012. AFP photo

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi speaks to reporters during a press conference in Damascus on December 23, 2012. AFP photo

The Syrian regime is prepared to have dialogue with its political opponents, but without "preconditions", the information minister said Friday in response to an offer from the opposition leader.

"The door is open, the negotiating table is there, welcome to any Syrian who wants to have dialogue with us. We are serious about the question of dialogue," Omrane al-Zohbi said on state television.

"When you speak of dialogue, it means dialogue without conditions, which excludes no one. But if someone comes to me and says 'I want to talk about this issue or I'll kill you', that's not a dialogue," he said, adding: "There must be no preconditions." The opposition Syrian National Coalition said on February 1, the day after an offer of dialogue by its leader Moaz al-Khatib, that any talks on the country's political future must be about the departure of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Khatib had also called for the release of 160,000 detainees and said he sought dialogue with members of the regime who did not have "blood on their hands", suggesting that he was ready to meet Assad's deputy, Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa.

The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Assad's regime began in March 2011.

February/09/2013

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