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Iran's President Calls On Syria's Assad, Opposition To Negotiate

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad flashes the victory sign as he attends the 12th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo on February 6.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to start talks to end the country's nearly two-year-old conflict.

In an interview on Egyptian television, Ahmadinejad said the negotiations should be followed by elections so that Syrians themselves determine their country's future.

Iran is Assad's main regional ally and has repeatedly rejected international calls on the Syrian president to step down.

Ahmadinejad is in Egypt on the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than 30 years.

He is also attending a two-day summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which opened on February 6 in Cairo.

The Syrian conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives, is high on the agenda of the summit.

Meanwhile in Syria, activists say dozens of people were killed in Damascus during a second day of fighting between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to Assad.

On February 6, the rebels launched an offensive on several government positions in the capital and its surroundings using antiaircraft guns, mortar rounds, and captured armored vehicles.

In response, government troops based on a hill in the middle of the capital unleashed heavy artillery and rocket barrages on February 7 on the rebel-controlled neighborhoods of Jobar, Zamalka, and Hajar al-Aswad.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 60 people, including some 21 civilians and 32 rebels, have been killed since February 6.

Based on reporting by AFP, dpa, AP, and Reuters