U.N.-Arab league envoy Brahimi arrives in Damascus

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U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Damascus on Monday, as part of the next leg of his regional tour to garner support for a peace conference on Syria.

Brahimi flew in to Beirut from Tehran and was to travel overland to Damascus the same day, making his first visit to Syria since last December, Agence France-Presse reported.

The envoy arrived at the Sheraton hotel accompanied by Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Moqdad.

In Tehran, Brahimi said it was “necessary” for Iran, a key ally of the Damascus regime, to take part in the Geneva II conference.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is still to name a formal date for the proposed meeting despite comments from some Syrian and Arab nation officials suggesting the talks could be held late next month.

Russia and the United States have been pushing for peace talks to find a political solution in the Syria conflict but it has been repeatedly delayed.

On Monday, Russia described as “outrageous” a threat by Syrian opposition groups against those who attend Syria peace talks.

“It is outrageous that some of these extremist, terrorist organizations fighting government forces in Syria are starting to make threats,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by AFP.

“The threats are directed at those who have the courage to attend the proposed Geneva conference being offered by Russia and the United States with the entire world’s support.”

A statement was released on Sunday by 22, mostly, Islamist brigades fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying the proposed conference “is not, nor will it ever be our people’s choice or our revolution’s demand.”

The opposition groups went on to say that anyone who attends such talks would be committing “treason” and “would have to answer for it before our courts,” according to AFP.

Under pressure from the West, the National Coalition opposition group is to meet on Nov. 9 to decide whether to take part in the peace conference.

But it has insisted it will only do so if there are guarantees Assad will step down, and its leader Ahmad al-Jarba has also said no talks can take place unless the regime frees women and children from its jails.

(With AFP)