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At Syria peace talks in Geneva, parties clash over fate of Assad

Representatives of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition have contradicted each other at peace talks in Geneva. Leaders are hoping to achieve a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

The head of the Syrian opposition in Geneva on Tuesday said a political transition in the war-torn country was not possible as long as President Bashar al-Assad was still in power.

"There cannot be a solution in Syria while Bashar Assad is present," Hijab (pictured left), part of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Syrian government dug in their heels. In an interview with a Lebanese TV channel, Bashar Ja'afari, the government's top negotiator, said Assad's fate would play no part in the deal reached between the different sides.

Assad's fate not 'under jurisdiction of Geneva'

"This matter does not fall under the jurisdiction of Geneva ... this is a Syrian-Syrian affair, Security Council or no Security Council," Ja'afari said. "In Geneva we have one mandate only to arrive at an expanded national government only."

With talks underway in Europe, fighting in Syria has intensified lately. Rebels and activists reported gunfire in areas around Latakia, Hama and Homs. Other activists reported government air strikes, including barrel bombs, outside of Homs.

Suspension of talks

Intensified fighting led to the HNC announcing on Monday that it would withdraw from peace talks, citing the worsening of violence.

Nonetheless, the group "remains fully committed to the political process and establishing peace through diplomacy," said HNC spokesman Salem al Meslet.

The announcement came after the opposition said the Assad regime carried out 70 air raids with help from Iran and Russia.

blc/msh (AP, Reuters)

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