Main Syrian opposition, in about-face, to attend Rome meeting

CAIRO Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:57pm EST

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib speaks to the media after meeting with Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib speaks to the media after meeting with Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo February 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih

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CAIRO (Reuters) - The Syrian National Coalition umbrella opposition group said on Monday it will attend the Friends of Syria conference of international powers in Rome next month, reversing a decision last week to suspend participation.

"After discussing with coalition leaders and making various calls... the coalition leadership have decided to stop the suspension of the visit to the Friends of Syria conference in Rome," the SNC leader Moaz Alkhatib wrote on his Facebook page.

Alkhatib said the decision came after statements of support by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague and promises to ease the suffering of the Syrian people as well as condemnation of atrocities committed by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

On February 23 the SNC said it suspended participation in Rome's meeting in protest to the attacks against civilians.

Earlier on Monday, Kerry telephoned Alkhatib to urge him to attend a planned Syria meeting in Rome.

An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the nearly two-year-old conflict between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels fighting to topple him, the United Nation says.

Syria's foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said, earlier on Monday that Syria is ready for talks with its armed opponents, in the clearest offer yet of negotiations with rebels fighting to overthrow the president.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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