Syrian rebels: No talks while Hezbollah backs Assad

Despite Syrian National Coalition head announcement, coalition spokesman says still no decision on whether to attend talks.

May 31, 2013 13:34
1 minute read.
Acting head of the Syrian National Coalition George Sabra in Istanbul May 13, 2013.

George Sabra 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

ISTANBUL - The acting head of Syria's opposition coalition said on Friday it would stay out of any international peace talks as long as Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas were fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces.

However, it was not clear if the statement by George Sabra was the fragmented organization's final word.

Russia and the United States are trying to draw Assad's representatives and his opponents into planned talks in Geneva on forming a transitional government in an effort to end more than two years of bloodshed.

"The Syrian Coalition will not participate in international conferences and will not support any efforts in light of Hezbollah and Iran's militia's invasion of Syria," Sabra said.

But the Syrian National Coalition has been riven by disagreements during a week of talks in Istanbul, and some of Sabra's colleagues were more cautious.

A spokesman said the coalition had not made a final decision on whether to go to Geneva. Another official said Sabra's view did not necessarily represent that of the wider opposition.

The coalition voted during the Istanbul talks to participate in the Geneva conference only if a deadline was set for an internationally guaranteed settlement based on Assad's exit.

But Sabra said an offensive by Assad's forces, supported by Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters, to capture the border town of Qusair had "dampened" hopes of reaching a political solution.

"It is difficult to continue when Syrians are constantly being hammered by the Assad regime with the help of outside forces like Iran and Russia," he said.

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