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Syria's opposition split over peace talks after Iran excluded

Syria's main opposition group confirmed late Monday it would take part in peace talks this week after the UN withdrew an invitation for Iran -- the main ally to Damascus.

BEIRUT: Syria's main opposition group confirmed late Monday it would take part in peace talks this week after the UN withdrew an invitation for Iran -- the main ally to Damascus.

However the biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Council (SNC) said late Monday it was quitting the umbrella Syrian National Coalition in protest over the Geneva II peace talks with the Damascus regime.

The SNC said taking part in the talks would renege on its "commitments" to not enter negotiations until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad left power -- something he refuses to do.

Earlier the larger Syrian National Coalition in a statement said it "welcomed the decision of the United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon to withdraw the invitation sent to Iran, given that Iran has not met the conditions of participation in Geneva 2 conference".

It said it therefore "confirms its participation" in the talks which it said aimed to achieve "a political transition". The opposition group's steadfast stance is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must quit power.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon had abruptly excluded Iran from this week's Syria peace conference in Switzerland after it refused to back calls for a transitional government to end the country's war.

Ban withdrew the surprise invitation less than 24 hours after it had been made, bidding to save the talks which start in the Swiss town of Montreux on Wednesday.

The UN secretary general was forced to act after both the Syrian opposition and the United States demanded the invitation be withdrawn if Iran did not support a Syria declaration adopted by major world powers in Geneva in 2012.

Iran is a major backer of Assad, who reaffirmed that he would not stand down in an interview with AFP published Monday.

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