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Syria Talks Won’t Address Assad Role, Minister Says

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- International peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict won’t discuss the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian Minister for National Reconciliation Ali Haidar said.

The proposed talks, backed by the U.S. and Russia, would initially seek agreement on a national unity government, Haidar said in a phone interview from Damascus. That administration would then set out a program for a political solution to the 2 1/2-year conflict, including the president’s status, and agreement would be by consensus and not a vote, he said.

Efforts to convene the conference have intensified since Russia and the U.S. reached an agreement last month to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, averting an American military strike in retaliation for a chemical attack allegedly carried out by Syrian government forces on Aug. 21.

The opposition hasn’t yet agreed to attend the talks. The U.K. is hosting a meeting of 11 foreign ministers and the Syrian National Coalition, the main political opposition, tomorrow to discuss the conference.

“Geneva will mark the launch of a political process not the achievement of a political process,” said Haidar. He said 80 percent of the preparations for the conference have been made and there’s tentative agreement that it will take place late November.

To contact the reporter on this story: Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut at dabunasr@bloomberg.net

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

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