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Syria regime to refuse ‘dictate’ at peace meet

The Syrian regime and its allies will refuse any “dictate” at an international peace conference, particularly concerning the departure of President Bashar al-Assad, a minister said.

The Syrian opposition and several of its allies have repeatedly demanded the departure of Assad in order to end the bloody conflict roiling Syria for more than two years.

“Syria will not accept any dictate and its friends will not accept it either,” deputy foreign minister Faisal Muqdad said in an interview with Syrian state television Al-Ikhbariya late Tuesday.

Syria’s key allies, Russia and Iran, has backed Damascus’s insistence that Assad’s departure is not on the table.

On Tuesday, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi also said Assad’s departure was not up for discussion.

“We will not allow anyone to impose conditions on us… that affect the principle of sovereignty,” he said, adding that the leader’s future was an issue for the “Syrian people and the ballot box.”

Syria is scheduled to hold presidential elections in 2014.

Last week in Moscow, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced plans for a new peace conference aimed at mapping a path towards a political transition in Syria and ending the bloody conflict now in its third year.

Muqdad also used the interview to criticise Syrian opposition backers including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

“The success of any international conference… in order to achieve a political solution to the crisis depends on the good faith of those who support terrorism,” he said using a regime term to describe the rebellion against Assad’s rule.

“Ending terrorism and violence is essential to end the crisis,” he added.

The war in Syria has so far killed at least 94,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The conflict has also displaced 4.2 million people, while more than 1.2 million are staying as refugees outside of the country.