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Syrian minister confirms readiness for talks with opposition


09:58, February 13, 2013

DAMASCUS, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Syrian minister of national reconciliation confirmed Tuesday his recent media statements that his government is ready to hold talks with head of Syrian exiled opposition coalition Moaz al-Khatib.

In a press briefing at the ministry's headquarters in the capital Damascus, the minister, Ali Haidar, stressed that "the government is ready... because it has originally put forward the dialogue project based on the inclusive political program" outlined by President Bashar al-Assad last month.

However, Haidar said he regarded al-Khatib's conditioned calls for dialogue as "ideas" and noted that the Syrian government did not receive any written initiative from the opposition.

"The government works according to official methods but the government didn't receive a written initiative from an official party to study it. But I have mentioned that we have heard through the media some news about what I call a number of thoughts," he said.

Last week, al-Khatib made a surprising statement by declaring his readiness to negotiate with the Syrian administration provided that the pro-Assad security forces release as many as 160,000 detainees from jails. He also demanded that the negotiations be held with Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa as a representative of the Assad administration.

The government has not officially responded to the initiative so far. However, analysts and some officials said the dialogue should not be preconditioned. They also added that the number of detainees al-Khatib mentioned is exaggerated.

In his briefing Tuesday, Haidar said he has expressed readiness to handle the detainees issue, but asked for a list of names of those detainees.

The minister, meanwhile, repeated the government's line that the dialogue should be held in Syria, under the Syrian supervision, and with Syrians only.

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