Syria fires deputy PM for meeting with US officials

Syria's Bashar Assad fired his deputy prime minister on Tuesday for holding what the government said were unauthorized talks with U.S. and other foreign officials.

Qadri Jamil, the former deputy prime minister for economic affairs, was relieved of his duties after meeting with U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and other diplomats in Geneva over the weekend. The United States and Russia are trying to put together a last-ditch peace conference in the Swiss city next month.

Jamil was fired by presidential decree “because of his absence from office without prior permission and not performing his duties,” the Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported Tuesday. He was also accused of being involved in “activities and meetings abroad without coordination with the government” and “overstepping the institutional work and the state's hierarchy.”

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The Syrian foreing minister, Walid al-Moallem, however said Tuesday that Syria may yet participate in the peace talks as long as Syrians are free to choose their leaders without foreing interference. The Obama administration has long called for Assad to step down.

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