60 countries expected at Tokyo Syria meet

AFP, Friday 9 Nov 2012

Japan said Friday around 150 delegates from some 60 countries are expected to attend an international conference in Tokyo this month aimed at pressuring the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It will bring together senior government officials from "Friends of Syria Group" countries supporting the Syrian opposition and seeking to ratchet up pressure on the Assad regime, a foreign ministry official said.

The Friends of Syria Group has previously organised four such meetings -- in Paris in April, Washington in June, Doha in July and The Hague in September, the official said.

"Some 150 participants from some 60 countries participated in the previous meetings and we expect a similar size this time as well," the foreign ministry official said.

Further details of the meeting, including the date, will be announced soon.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said on Monday: "The meeting is aimed at broadening the range of countries taking part in sanctions and enhancing the effectiveness of pressure on the Syrian government."

Tokyo imposed a freeze on assets held in Japan by the Syrian president and military leaders in September last year, in concert with European countries and the United States.

Tokyo has also banned chartered flights from Syria since July.

Syria's foreign ministry on Thursday lashed out at the planned meeting, according to state television, and demanded Tokyo call it off, saying sanctions were hurting the Syrian people.

But the Tokyo official said the Japanese government will go ahead with the forum as scheduled.

A government source in Morocco told AFP Thursday that a Syrian opposition meeting could be held there if the conditions were right.

Conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011 when Assad's forces moved to crush pro-reform protests, triggering an armed uprising.

More than 36,000 people have been killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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