Volume. 11873

Syrian army takes control of town near key highway
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_01_Syria99a(8).jpgSyrian state media say government troops have taken full control of a western town near country's main north-south highway, AP reported. 
The road near Nabk holds strategic value for both sides in Syria's conflict. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has considered using the highway to transport Syria's chemical weapons to the port of Latakia before they are taken out of the country for destruction.
Syrian state TV said President Bashar Assad's army took Nabk Monday morning after "a series of precise operations." Troops are still pursuing "terrorists" in the town's outskirts.
On Sunday, the army said the road has been reopened 19 days after it was closed because of the fighting. The highway is a crucial link between the capital Damascus and government strongholds along the Mediterranean coast.

France's Fabius doubts breakthrough at Syria talks
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius played down expectations Monday for next month's talks in Geneva on the Syrian conflict, saying he doubted they would mark a breakthrough, AFP reported. 
The " Geneva 2" meeting is slated for January 22 and aims to bring together Syria's opposition and President Bashar al-Assad's government to try to end the country's nearly three-year civil war.
"I believe that it will take place but... it is very difficult to imagine a quick positive outcome," Fabius told France Inter radio.
"The Geneva conference -- and I must say it's no surprise -- is taking place under very difficult conditions," Fabius said.
There is still no certainty the UN-backed talks, which seek to put in place a transitional government, will go ahead.
The main opposition National Coalition has said it will attend but some key anti-government figures have refused and others have said no final decision has been made.
The opposition is insisting Assad play no role in Syria's future -- a demand strongly rejected by the government.

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