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      Syrian Opposition Group Rejects Peace Talks, Quits Bloc

      Syrian National Council quits the Syrian National Coalition in protest over its attendance at the Geneva II talks.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 1/21/2014, 6:44 AM

      inauguration of the first Syrian opposition 'embassy'
      inauguration of the first Syrian opposition 'embassy'
      AFP photo

      The Geneva II peace talks on Syria are continuing to cause a split in the Western-backed political opposition groups, AFP reports.

      Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, confirmed late Monday it would take part in the talks this week after the UN withdrew an invitation for Iran.

      The biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Council, however, later said it was quitting the Syrian National Coalition in protest over the peace talks with the Damascus regime.

      The National Council said taking part in the talks would renege on its "commitments" to not enter negotiations until Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad left power, something he refuses to do.

      Earlier the larger Syrian National Coalition in a statement said it "welcomed the decision of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw the invitation sent to Iran, given that Iran has not met the conditions of participation in Geneva 2 conference."

      It said it therefore "confirms its participation" in the talks which it said aimed to achieve "a political transition". The opposition group's steadfast stance is that Assad must quit power.

      UN leader Ban Ki-moon had abruptly excluded Iran from this week's Syria peace conference in Switzerland after it refused to back calls for a transitional government to end the country's war.

      Ban withdrew the surprise invitation less than 24 hours after it had been made, bidding to save the talks which start in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday.

      The UN secretary general was forced to act after both the Syrian opposition and the United States demanded the invitation be withdrawn if Iran did not support a Syria declaration adopted by major world powers in Geneva in 2012.

      The Syrian National Council has been steadfast in its refusal to attend the Geneva talks unless Assad’s resignation is on the agenda.

      Not only has Assad refused to relinquish power, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister recently said that Assad would likely run for another term as president this year.