Syria's Assad holds meeting on dialogue: SANA
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
A picture dated May 23, 2009 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad . AFP PhotoSyria's President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday met with a committee tasked with forging a political solution to the country's spiralling conflict, state media said.
"President Assad held a meeting with a committee tasked with putting in place a programme for a political solution to the crisis in Syria," said SANA news agency.
The committee was set up after Assad called for dialogue with unarmed elements of the opposition, in a rare speech delivered in January.
In Wednesday's meeting with the committee headed by Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, Assad "listened to its members discuss their recent work," SANA reported.
"He urged committee members to step up their efforts and to focus on four key areas in the coming phase," it said.
SANA quoted Assad as saying the committee should "start by... enforcing relations between the ministerial committee and its branches in the provinces.
The committee should work by holding "consultative sessions and invite participation by several representatives of the Syrian people, to lay the foundations for a future national dialogue process," said Assad.
It should also "work out how the state should manage the dialogue between sectors of Syrian society, and to make all the provisions necessary for its success," he was quoted as saying.
In addition, the embattled Syrian leader said the committee should "support efforts for reconciliation that are taking place in several areas" of the country.
Though Assad has said he welcomed dialogue with the opposition, he said talks would only be possible with opponents with no ties to the insurgency that broke out after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.