State: No preconditions for Syria talks

The State Department said Friday it agrees there should be no preconditions for Syria peace talks that could take place later this month.

The remarks are likely to anger the Western-backed opposition, which has called for President Bashar Assad to step down if it's to participate in the last-ditch peace effort pushed by the United States and Russia. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki made the comments following similar remarks earlier in the day by United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

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“There is an agreement that attendance at Geneva 2 will not be based on any preconditions from any side,” Brahimi told reporters in Beirut after meeting with Assad. “The two sides when they sit down at the table ... will discuss how we can move from this choking, murderous crisis that the Syrian people are facing, how we can transition from this situation into building a new Syrian republic.”

Asked about Brahimi's comments, Psaki said: “that's something we certainly support.”

She added, however, that the Geneva talks can only have a successful outcome if they result in the Syrian government agreeing to Assad's departure from power. She said the United States is still calling for the departure of Assad, whom the United States holds responsible for the more than 100,00 people killed in Syria since the outbreak of violence in March 2011.

“The opposition would never support Assad being a part of the transitional government,” Psaki said. “That  would be the outcome of [the talks].”

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