Arab League chief says Syria peace talks set for 23 November

Arab League chief Nabil El Araby said on Sunday peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Syria would take place on 23 November in Geneva.

"I discussed the Syria file with Lakhdar Brahimi and it was decided that the Geneva meeting would take place on 23 November and arrangements are being made to prepare for this conference," El Araby told reporters in Cairo after a meeting with Brahimi, the international envoy for Syria.

But at the same news conference, Brahimi said: "The date has not been officially set."

A senior Syrian official said last week that the long-delayed conference was scheduled for 23-24 November, but co-organizers Russia and the United States said no date had been set.

International efforts to stop the bloodshed in the 2-1/2 year conflict in Syria have stuttered, but a deal reached last month for Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons arsenal rekindled efforts to convene the conference, dubbed "Geneva 2."

A deeply divided opposition is, however, reluctant to attend, and President Bashar al-Assad's government said it would not consider any deal that required the president to step down.

Najib Ghadbian, the opposition coalition's U.S. representative, said an important component of the coalition had decided against taking part, but said other members of the umbrella group could still decide to go, assuming Assad was not there.

Brahimi, who earlier said there would be no preconditions to attending the peace talks, said on Sunday a conference could not be convened without a "convincing opposition that represents Syria's opposition population."

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