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UN Chief Announces Syria Peace Talks In January

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says a second round of Syrian peace talks will be held in Geneva on January 22.

Ban said at the United Nations on November 25 the meeting would provide a chance for diplomacy in ending Syria's civil war.

"At long last and for the first time the Syrian government and opposition will meet at the negotiating table instead of the battlefield," Ban said.

He said a main goal of the meeting would be to establish a transitional government with powers over military and security.

Ban did not say who will attend the meeting, which took months to set a date for.

Russia has insisted that Iran be included, something the United States, the Syrian opposition, and other Western countries have opposed.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has said it would attend only on the condition that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad steps down, which his government said is not an option.

In Geneva, UN/Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he and other officials are "still discussing" the full list of participants in the conference, dubbed "Geneva-2."

"We are in touch both with the [Syrian] government and with the opposition. We are asking them to name their delegations as early as possible, hopefully before the end of the year," Brahimi said.

He admitted it would be difficult to get all sides to agree on who should take part.

"Not all the people who want to come to Geneva [conference] will be able to come. But they should know that this is not an event -- this is a process. And am sure that everybody who wants to participate in rebuilding what I call 'the new Republic of Syria' will be able to do so in the course of the process," Brahimi said.

Brahimi said a meeting with the United States, Russia, and the UN will be held on December 20 to make final preparations for Geneva-2, which would be the first-ever talks between the government and the Syrian National Coalition, which is based in exile in Turkey.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the plan announced by Ban and Brahimi, calling it the "best opportunity" to form a new transitional government to lead the country out of war.

Kerry said, "In order to end the bloodshed and give the Syrian people a chance to meet their long-deferred aspirations, Syria needs new leadership."

More than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Syria's civil war, which began in March 2011.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters
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