Syrian opposition chief holds first meeting with Ban Ki-moon

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the Syrian opposition National Coalition held their first meeting on Saturday in a bid to press for a Syria peace conference.

The meeting is likely to anger President Bashar al-Assad's government, which calls the coalition and other opposition groups “terrorists.”

Coalition president Ahmad Jarba told the U.N. leader that the opposition group was ready to send a delegation to a conference, according to U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky Agence France Presse reported.

When the major powers agreed a declaration that there should be a transitional government in Syria, Ban announced on Friday a plan to organize a peace conference in mid-November as a follow-up to the Geneva one held in June 2012.

“The secretary-general welcomed Mr. Jarba's commitment to send a delegation to the Geneva Conference and urged the National Coalition to reach out to other opposition groups and agree on a representative and united delegation,” Nesirky was quoted as saying by AFP.

The spokesman also said the U.N. leader “stressed the importance of embarking on a serious dialogue as soon as possible as well as the need to ensure accountability for war crimes.”

Ban said on Sept. 13 that Assad has committed "many crimes against humanity."

Since an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that left more than a thousand dead according to the Syrian opposition, Ban has stepped up criticism of the Assad regime.

International experts have said a U.N. report on the Aug. 21 attack, which did not attribute blame, gave clear signs that government forces carried out the attack.

The United States, Britain and France have accused Assad's forces of carrying out the attack while Russia has sided with Assad in blaming opposition rebels.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on Friday ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons after Russia and the United States agreed on a deal to avert U.S. military action against Assad.

Resolution 2118 is the council’s first resolution on the Syria conflict which according to U.N. figures has left 100,000 people dead.

(With AFP)

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