|Syrian opposition rejects Russian invitation for peace talks||
Syria's foreign-backed opposition leader has rejected an invitation from Russia for peace talks.
Russia said on Friday it had sent an invitation for a visit to Moaz Alkhatib, whose six-week-old National Coalition opposition group has been recognized by many Western states and their Arab allies as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people, Reuters reported.
In an interview on Al Jazeera television, Alkhatib said he had already ruled out such a trip and wanted an apology from Moscow for its support for President Bashar al-Assad.
"We have clearly said we will not go to Moscow. We could meet in an Arab country if there was a clear agenda," he said.
"Now we also want an apology from (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov because all this time he said that the people will decide their destiny, without foreign intervention," Alkhatib stated.
Russia has stuck to its position that rebels must negotiate with Assad's government.
"I think a realistic and detailed assessment of the situation inside Syria will prompt reasonable opposition members to seek ways to start a political dialogue," Lavrov said on Friday.
Brahimi to Moscow
Russia says it is behind the efforts of UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, fresh from a five-day trip to Damascus where he met Assad. Brahimi, due in Moscow for talks on Saturday, is touting a months-old peace plan for a transitional government.
That UN plan was long seen as a dead letter, foundering from the outset over the question of whether the transitional body would include Assad or his allies. Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, quit in frustration shortly after negotiating it.
Brahimi calls for transitional government in Syria
On Thursday, Brahimi called for the formation of a transitional government with “full executive powers” to run the country until new elections can be held.
Brahimi is apparently seeking to revive a peace plan launched by world powers in Geneva in June that never took off because neither side was interested in carrying it out.
The original Geneva plan called for the establishment of a national unity government with full executive powers that could include members of Assad’s government, the opposition and other groups. It was to oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.
Because of Russian objections, that plan did not call specifically for Assad’s ouster, nor did it ban him from participation in the new government — making it a non-starter with the opposition.
”The Syrian people seek genuine change,” Brahimi told reporters in Damascus, adding that the transitional period ”must not lead to the collapse of the state or the state’s institutions,” AP reported.
On Thursday, Brahimi did not specify how his plan would treat Assad, and said it still needed to be determined whether the called-for elections would be for president or parliament.
The Syrian government did not immediately comment on Brahimi’s suggestion.
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