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Kerry: Syrians must attend peace talks

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday issued a public appeal for Syrian rebels to participate in next week's peace talks near Geneva.

America's top diplomat is eager to salvage a last-ditch attempt at a political settlement that he's spent months championing along with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. The talks are seen as a long shot to ending a civil war that has raged since March 2011; the main Syrian opposition umbrella group in exile is scheduled to decide Friday whether to attend.

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“The United States urges a positive vote,” Kerry said during a brief appearance at the State Department before jetting off next week to Montreux, Switzerland. “We do so knowing that the Geneva peace conference is not the end but rather the beginning, the launch of a process — a process that is the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution.”

Another opposition group that's based inside Syria already rejected participation on Thursday and urged the Syrian National Coalition to vote “no.”

“There will be four days between the Coalition's decision to attend Geneva and the start of the conference,” National Coordination Body executive member Khaled Dahowd told Lebanon's The Daily Star. “How can we create a unified delegation with a unified democratic platform four days before an international conference? Under these conditions we will not attend. ... The Geneva conference as planned now will fail.”

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