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Assad regime vows no surrender of power

Rebels say they will not enter talks if Assad remains in power [Reuters]The Syrian government says Bashar al-Assad's position as president is not up for negotiation at peace talks, calling such demands by the opposition "delusions and dreams".

The statement, issued by the foreign ministry via the SANA news agency on Wednesday, said a delegation would go to planned Geneva II talks in January, but Assad would not "surrender power".

"The age of colonialism, with the installation and toppling of governments, is over. They must wake from their dreams," the statement said. "If they insist on these delusions, there is no need for them to attend Geneva II."

"The official Syrian delegation is not going to Geneva to surrender power."

The government delegation would convey "the wishes of the Syrian people, foremost among them the elimination of terrorism" - a reference rebels fighting Assad's regime.

The Syrian statement was the first formal response from Damascus to this week's announcement of the talks.

The Geneva II talks, being pushed by the UN, aims to create a transitional government to end the civil war.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition says it will not attend the talks unless the Syrian regime guarantees Assad will be barred from any role in the transitional government.

Ceasefire call

Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Wednesday that Tehran and Ankara would press for a ceasefire in Syria ahead of peace talks planned for January, the Mehr news agency reported.

"All our efforts should be carried out to finish the conflict and reach a ceasefire even before Geneva II," Zarif said after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

"Iran and Turkey have similar standpoints on several issues, including that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis."

On Tuesday, the rebel Free Syrian Army's commander, General Salim Idriss, said his forces would not agree a ceasefire to smooth the way for talks.


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