Syria Talks Won’t Address Assad Role, Minister Says

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.

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