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In brief: Syria peace talks lose opposition support

Sun., Feb. 24, 2013

Beirut – Fledgling efforts to promote peace talks in the Syrian conflict appear to have stalled, even as the death toll rises daily and the rebellion nears its second-year anniversary.

The major exile opposition group, irate at what it calls a “shameful” global silence about the bloodshed, has announced that it will not attend several planned international gatherings on Syria, spurning invitations to visit Russia and the United States. Both nations have said that they favor negotiations to end the violence in Syria.

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has also opted to “suspend” its participation in a meeting in Rome next month of the so-called Friends of Syria alliance, which includes the United States and dozens of other nations that have bankrolled the opposition.

The coalition’s protest moves – combined with its demand that any talks lead to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad – would seem to scuttle already faint hopes for negotiations.

The opposition bloc assailed what it called international inaction in the face of recent attacks by government-launched Scud missiles on the northern city of Aleppo.

Iran claims it took over drone, landed it

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saturday that it had captured a foreign unmanned aircraft during a military exercise in southern Iran.

Gen. Hamid Sarkheili, a spokesman for the military exercise, said the Guard’s electronic warfare unit spotted signals indicating that foreign drones were trying to enter Iranian airspace. Sarkheili said Guard experts took control of one drone’s navigation system and brought it down near the city of Sirjan where the military drills began on Saturday.

Sarkheili did not say whether the drone was American. In Washington, a CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

Iran has claimed to have captured several U.S. drones, including an advanced RQ-170 Sentinel CIA spy drone in December 2011 and at least three ScanEagle aircraft.

Egyptian elections draw opposition

Cairo – Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called Saturday for a boycott of parliamentary elections, drawing immediate criticism from some within his movement who said it was a hasty decision.

The dispute showed the fragility of a fairly new opposition front forged after the deeply fragmented movement found little success at the polls since it led the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition infighting would only help ensure that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group remains Egypt’s dominant political force after the next vote.

“(I) called for parliamentary election boycott in 2010 to expose sham democracy. Today I repeat my call, will not be part of an act of deception,” Nobel laureate ElBaradei, who leads the opposition National Salvation Front, wrote on his Twitter account.

President Mohammed Morsi called for the elections in a decree Thursday – a four-stage vote starting at the end of April and concluding in June. On Friday, ElBaradei said holding elections during this time of deep political polarization “is a recipe for disaster.”


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