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Syria Opposition Leader Calls for Meeting After Rift Over Talks

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The head of Syria’s main opposition group called for a meeting with his coalition after angering members by saying he’d be willing to hold conditional talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The “suffering and humiliation” of the Syrian people has become unbearable, and countries are promising help without offering anything, said Mouaz al-Khatib, leader of the Syrian National Coalition. “I am ready to sit with representatives of the Syrian regime” as a goodwill gesture to find a political solution, he said in a statement today.

Among conditions he listed for talks are the release of 160,000 prisoners held in Syrian prisons and the renewal of passports for at least two years. Al-Khatib said he would be willing to meet with Syrian government representatives in Cairo, Tunisia or Istanbul.

The Syrian National Coalition said Al-Khatib’s statement doesn’t represent the bloc’s viewpoint and is “against the Doha Charter, which rejects negotiations with the criminal regime.” In a second statement, Al-Khatib said his comments were personal and that a meeting seeking to find common ground will take place tomorrow, Al-Khatib said.

International allies meeting in Kuwait today pledged $1.5 billion to help Syrian civilians in the country, where at least 60,000 people have died since fighting began in March 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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