AMMAN - Syrian opposition fighters captured a military airport near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday in another military setback for President Bashar Assad's forces which have come under intensifying attack across the country.

The airport is the latest military facility to fall under rebel control in a strategic region situated between Syria's industrial and commercial centre and the country's oil- and wheat- producing heartland to the east.

Fighting in the nearly two-year-old conflict has intensified in the three weeks since the political leadership of the opposition offered to negotiate a departure for Assad.

In the first direct government response, Syria's minister for "national reconciliation", Ali Haidar, said he was willing to travel abroad to meet Moaz Alkhatib, the Cairo-based president of the Syrian National Coalition opposition group.

Authorities had previously said they would talk to the "patriotic opposition" - figures who have not allied themselves with the armed rebellion. But most centrist opposition figures have left the country since Abdel-Aziz al-Khayyer, a proponent of dialogue and non-violence, was arrested last year.

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