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Syria opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Syria's opposition sees no role for Assad, blasts Iran's military presence in country
Opposition groups met ahead of UN-backed peace talks after two years of Russian military intervention to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters)

Syria's fragmented opposition announced early on Friday they had reached an agreement to send a united delegation to next week's UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva.

"We have agreed with the two other (opposition) branches to send a united delegation to participate in the direct negotiations in Geneva," Bassma Kodmani, a member of the negotiating team, told reporters in Riyadh.

About 140 opposition figures had gathered in Riyadh to try to form a unified delegation to meet representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in Geneva on 28 November.

Several rounds of talks hosted by the United Nations have failed to bring an end to the six-year war in Syria, which has killed more than 330,000 people since 2011 and forced millions from their homes.

No Assad

Syria's main opposition stuck by its demand that Assad play no role in an interim period under any UN-sponsored peace deal, despite speculation it might soften its stance because of Assad's battlefield strength.

The gathering in Saudi Arabia of more than 140 participants from a broad spectrum of Syria's mainstream opposition also blasted Iran's military presence in Syria and called on Shia militias backed by Tehran to leave the country.

"The participants stressed that this (the transition) cannot happen without the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his clique at the start of the interim period," opposition groups said in a communique at the end of the meeting.

Iran-backed militias sowed "terrorism and sectarian strife" between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the communique said.

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