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Kerry Sways Syrian Opposition, Warns Of 'Terrible Consequences' On Iran


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and British Foreign Secretary William Hague hold a joint news conference in central London on February 25.
The head of the Syrian National Coalition has announced that his umbrella opposition group will attend the Friends of Syria conference of international powers this week following a Western appeal.

The announcement by Moaz al-Khatib came after an earlier decision by the group to suspend participation in the Rome meeting slated for February 28 to protest Syrian government forces' attacks on civilians.

Khatib wrote on his Facebook page that his group will attend after U.S. State Secretary John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague "promised specific aid to alleviate the suffering of our people."

Earlier on February 25, Kerry telephoned Khatib to urge him to attend the talks.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Hague earlier in London, Kerry said the Friends of Syria group was not meeting this week merely to talk but "to make a decision on next steps."

"We understand that the Syrian people want to see results from this conference," Kerry said. "I would say to Moaz al-Khatib, 'So do we, and the best way to get those results is to join us, be part of this discussion.'"

Kerry said it was time for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, adding that recent missile strikes on the city of Aleppo were the latest example of his brutality.

In a statement issued on February 22, Khatib's Syrian National Coalition -- the main Syrian opposition group -- had said it was protesting missile attacks it said had killed hundreds of civilians.

The coalition condemned the lack of international response to what it called the systematic destruction of the ancient city by Syrian missile strikes.

'Terrible Consequences' Over Iran

On Iran, Kerry said Tehran still has time to find a diplomatic solution to the international standoff over its nuclear program, but it must negotiate with world powers in good faith.

"And as we have repeatedly made clear, the window for a diplomatic solution [to the Iranian nuclear issue] simply cannot, by definition, remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now and there is still time, but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and to negotiate in good faith," Kerry said. "We are prepared to negotiate in good faith, in mutual respect, in an effort to avoid whatever terrible consequences could follow failure."

Kerry added that Iran with a nuclear weapon is "simply unacceptable."

Earlier on February 25, the first full day of what the State Department called "a listening tour," Kerry met with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London. Cameron's spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, said the prime minister and Kerry "reiterated their shared determination to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran."

The comments come ahead of talks between Iran and world powers on Tehran's nuclear program in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on February 26.

Kerry and Cameron also discussed the prospects of a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union and the Middle East peace process.

Berlin is the next leg of Kerry’s first official overseas trip to Europe and Middle East.

With additional reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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