Syria talks under way, Damascus insists Assad will stay

GENEVA - Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met US and Russian officials on Tuesday to discuss convening long-delayed Syrian peace talks this year despite disputes over President Bashar Assad's future and whether his ally Iran can attend.
Hours earlier, Damascus reiterated that Assad will stay in power come what may, casting doubt on the political transition that is the main focus of the proposed "Geneva 2" conference.
Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, conferred with US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Russian deputy foreign ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov at the United Nations in Geneva.
After their closed-door talks, they were to be joined by officials from the other three UN Security Council permanent members Britain, France and China, as well as Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and the Arab League.
A UN source said that even if a conference date could not be announced immediately, the aim was to "at least see that all the parties and groups are ready for a date".
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