10/31/2013, 00.00
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As OPCW destroys chemical plants, Assad insists only Syrians can "decide on Syria's future"

In his meeting with UN-Arab League Special Envoy Lakdhar Brahimi, the Syrian President slams foreign powers for providing weapons to the rebels. The tête-à-tête took place yesterday in Damascus ahead of the Geneva Conference, scheduled for late November. The OPCW announces the destruction of all the 20 plants that made sarin gas for chemical weapons.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In view of the Syria peace conference in Geneva set for late November, the Syrian regime is making small overtures, but continues to reject talks with the rebels sponsored by Gulf nations. Still, there are some good news from the war front, the first in three years. Today, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that it completed the destruction of 20 sites where sarin gas was manufactured. Yesterday, with the regime's backing the Red Crescent evacuated about 800 civilians (women, children and seniors), including rebel families, from the Moadamiyet al-Sham District, southeast of Damascus.

After yesterday's meeting in Damascus with the UN-Arab League Special Envoy Lakdhar Brahimi, President Bashar al -Assad said that "The Syrian people are the only ones who have the right to decide on Syria's future". For him, "Putting an end to support for the terrorists and pressuring the states that support them is the most important step to prepare . . . for dialogue".

Assad has ruled out resigning as demanded by the rebels. He also saying whether he would run in future democratic elections.

Nevertheless, the Syrian leaders supports Brahimi's push for ​​ a quick solution to the conflict, which since March 2011 has killed more than 115,000 people, and displace some 7 million people inside and outside the country.

According to the UN envoy, the first objective at the Geneva Conference will be to get all parties to agree on a strategy to stop the hostilities.

However, set for late November, the Geneva meeting is likely to fail because of differences between Assad and the rebels.

In fact, the Syrian National Council (SNC) recently announced that it would not participate in any negotiations if the president were still in power. The SNC is an umbrella organisation representing all opposition groups in exile.

For their part, groups close to Islamist wing of the opposition warned that rebels who attend the Geneva Conference would be branded as traitors.

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