Nasr Hariri to head unified Syrian opposition at Geneva

In this March 3, 2017 photo, Nasr al-Hariri, the leader of Syria's main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, gives a press conference after a round of negotiation with UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)
Updated 25 November 2017
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Nasr Hariri to head unified Syrian opposition at Geneva

RIYADH: Syria’s main opposition group selected Nasr Hariri to head the negotiating team at a new round of UN-backed peace talks with the Damascus regime in Geneva next week, a spokesman said on Friday.
Hamid Al-Mahameed, Jamaal Sulaiman, Hanadi Abu Yaarob and Ala’a Arafat will be Hariri’s deputies. The negotiation body comprises 36 members, representing all sections of the opposition.
Feras Al-Khalidi, a leading opposition figure, stuck by the demand that President Bashar Assad play no role in an interim period. “The participants stressed that the transition cannot happen without the departure of Assad and his clique at the start of the interim period,” he said.
He added: “I make it clear that … we shall go to Geneva without any preconditions. The political transition needs a safe environment and that cannot be possible with Assad’s presence.”
The opposition groups met to seek a unified position ahead of talks after two years of Russian military intervention that has helped Assad’s regime recapture all of Syria’s main cities.
“There was consensus between the various groups to choose him (Hariri) as head of the Higher Negotiations Committee to lead the opposition delegation in the coming Geneva talks,” said Ahmad Ramadan, spokesman for the Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition.
UN peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura, preparing for the next round of Geneva talks, met on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Moscow was working with Riyadh to unify the Syrian opposition.
Basma Kodmani, a Syrian academic and former spokesperson of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said: “We have agreed with the two other opposition branches to send a united delegation to participate in the direct negotiations in Geneva.”
The UN-brokered talks will take place in Geneva on Nov. 28.


Fresh protests in Iraq as medics raise death toll to 11

Updated 18 min 38 sec ago
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Fresh protests in Iraq as medics raise death toll to 11

  • Security forces remained deployed around the capital Baghdad
  • Overall medical sources put the death toll in the unrest at 11 people

BAGHDAD: Fresh protests hit southern Iraq Sunday as medical sources put at 11 the number of demonstrators killed in two weeks of unrest sparked by ire over corruption and lack of public services.
Security forces remained deployed around the capital Baghdad after struggling Friday to disperse crowds of angry protesters who took to the streets.
Demonstrations have roiled swathes of southern and central Iraq since erupting in the oil-rich port city of Basra on July 8, when security forces opened fire killing one person.
Overall medical sources put the death toll in the unrest at 11 people, three in each of the cities Basra, Samawah and Najaf, and one in both the cities of Diwaniyah and Karbala.
Most of them were killed by gunfire from unidentified assailants, while one person suffocated to death on tear gas used to disperse the demonstrators.
Protesters on Sunday took to the streets in the cities of Samawah and Nasiriyah, chanting “no to corruption,” a scourge Iraqis say has long blighted their country.
Since the start of the demonstrations those involved have focused their anger on the political establishment, with government buildings and party offices being sacked or set ablaze.
The Iraqi authorities have scrambled to halt the unrest and have blocked social media sites online to try to prevent the spread of protests.
Iraq is in a state of political limbo with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi overseeing a caretaker government as wrangling to form a new government drags on after elections in May.
A coalition headed by populist cleric Moqtada Sadr topped the polls, campaigning on an anti-graft ticket to claim the most seats in parliament.