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'Friends of Syria' meet in Tunis, keeps out Syrian gov't


16:51, February 25, 2012

TUNIS, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- A group known as the Friends of Syria started its first conference in Tunis on Friday, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Syria to make way for humanitarian aids to flow into the conflicts-torn country.

Delegates from 60 countries and organizations, including the United States, European and Arab nations, and the Syrian opposition were invited to the conference hosted by Tunisia. However, the conference shut its door to the Syrian government.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki made the opening address, saying that Tunis opposed solving the Syrian crisis through external interference and endorsed a plan to send Arab peacekeeping forces to Syria to stop violence and protect the civilians.

Marzouki also suggested that a "Yemen-model" should be adopted to help Syria to start its democratic transition, meaning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down and hand over power to his deputy, making way for a transitional process that will help end the bloody confrontation between the government and opposition.

Arab League (AL) Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi said at the opening that the AL would respect Syria's sovereignty, and refuse any form of foreign intervention so as to prevent a civil war.

The AL would also meet the aspirations of the Syrian people towards freedom and political reform, Arabi said.

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