Syrian rebel fighters celebrate after taking over the village of Aljanodiya, on January 30, 2013
Syrian rebel fighters celebrate after taking over the village of Aljanodiya, in northwestern Idlib province, on January 30, 2013. Syria's main opposition group will meet in Cairo, a day after a surprise statement from its chief that he was willing to hold talks with regime officials, a Syrian National Coalition member has told AFP. © Aamir Qureshi - AFP/File
Syrian rebel fighters celebrate after taking over the village of Aljanodiya, on January 30, 2013
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AFP
Last updated: January 31, 2013

Syrian opposition meets in Cairo

Syria's main opposition group was to meet Thursday in Cairo, a day after a surprise statement from its chief that he was willing to hold talks with regime officials, a Syrian National Coalition member said.

"This meeting was organised well before the Syrian National Coalition leader, Moaz al-Khatib, made his statement," SNC member Samir Nashar told AFP.

The original agenda was to discuss financial aid from Qatar but "obviously this will change now," said Nashar.

On Wednesday, Khatib announced on Facebook that he was "ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul".

He laid down as conditions the release of "160,000 detainees" and that the passports of exiled citizens be renewed in embassies abroad.

Khatib's statement drew a mixed reaction from the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Syrian National Council, a key opposition group and SNC member, rejected Khatib's proposal outright.

Its leader "George Sabra was not scheduled to come to this meeting (in Egypt) because of other engagements, but he has changed his plans and has arrived in Cairo," said Nashar.

The Syrian opposition's "ambassador" to Paris, Monzer Makhous, said Khatib had "softened" his stance because "he feels a special responsibility to try to resolve" the escalating conflict.

Such talks would exclude Assad and his entourage, whom Makhous described as "war criminals".

In Damascus, Al-Watan newspaper said Khatib's statement unmasked "the exiled Syrian opposition's divisions" and that the opposition was "unable to adopt a common stance on the crisis and on ways to resolve it".

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