Iraq foreign minister to lead Syria initiative

AFP , Sunday 18 Dec 2011

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari will be the key negotiator in an initiative between the Syria regime and opposition seeking to end months of brutality against peaceful protesters by President Assad's security forces

Baghdad's foreign minister will lead an Iraqi initiative to end months of unrest in Syria by holding talks with the Damascus regime, opposition groups and the Arab League, an Iraqi official said Sunday.

"We had very positive discussions on Sunday with the secretary general of the Arab League, who supported our initiative alongside that of the Arab League in an effort to find a solution between the Syrians," National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh told AFP by telephone from Cairo.

"Our next step is to launch our initiative, and this task will be led by the foreign minister (Hoshyar Zebari) who will announce the details and mechanisms to the Arab League and the Syrian parties soon," he said.

A day earlier, he said he held "positive talks" with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a visit with an Iraqi delegation to Damascus.

"Our efforts are still continuing to reach a deal between the government and the opposition in Syria," he said. "It's too early to speak about the results."

In Doha, meanwhile, the Arab League threatened to take Syria to the UN for procrastinating over a deal to stop its deadly crackdown on dissent, after Russia proposed a surprise draft resolution to the conflict.

Fayadh said on Sunday that Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi is "for an Arab solution and against internationalisation of the crisis."

On Sunday, a civilian was among seven people killed in violence in Syria as clashes raged between deserters and regular army troops in centres of protest against the regime, human rights activists said.

The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown on pro-democracy protests which first erupted in mid-March.

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