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Syrian activists: Truce reached in blockaded town

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, 9:21 p.m.
 

Government officials and rebels reached a deal to ease a weekslong blockade on a rebel-held town near the Syrian capital on Sunday, allowing food to reach civilians there for the first time in weeks, activists said.

The truce is the latest to be struck in recent months between President Bashar Assad's government and disparate rebel groups in the country's more than 2½-year-old conflict.

It was reached as the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group was holding the second of two days of meetings in Istanbul to decide whether to attend a proposed peace conference the United States and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva by the end of this year.

The Syrian National Coalition has demanded that Assad step down in any transitional government as a condition for participation in the talks. Syrian officials say Assad will stay in his post at least until his term ends in 2014 and that he may run for re-election.

Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said discussions were ongoing Sunday night.

“There are people who are concerned and worried that not enough preparation has taken place. And there are those who would like to make a decision but with some preparation,” he told reporters in Istanbul.

According to a draft statement that the coalition officials say the group intends to vote on, the opposition in exile affirms its “readiness” to take part in a transitional government but one that has full powers, including executive powers.

A copy of the draft obtained by The Associated Press said the coalition will consult with “revolutionary forces inside Syria, as well as Arab and international allies, to explain the coalition's position and bolster unanimity over the coalition's decision.”

The coalition is expected to approve a list of cabinet ministers presented by the interim prime minister, Ahmad Toumeh, who was elected in September.

The Western-backed group has called for goodwill measures from the Assad government, including lifting sieges on rebel-held areas.

It wasn't clear whether the deal in Qudsaya was such a gesture, as neither rebels nor Syrian officials comment on such deals.

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