Russia says questions remain over Syria peace conference

MOSCOW Wed Jun 5, 2013 10:34am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian, U.S. and U.N. officials meeting in Geneva on Wednesday failed to resolve questions over proposed Syria peace talks, including who would take part, a senior Russian official was quoted as saying.

"The most difficult question is the circle of participants in the conference," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, according to Interfax news agency. He said the peace talks would not be held in June, as originally envisaged.

"The whole issue is that the Syrian opposition, unlike the government, has not made a fundamental decision about its participation in this conference," Gatilov said.

The United States and Russia announced on May 7 that they would try to bring representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and its opponents together to seek an end to a conflict that has killed 80,000 people since March 2011.

No date has been set for the conference.

Gatilov also told reporters in Geneva there had been no agreement yet on whether Assad's main regional ally, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, which backs his opponents, would be invited to the conference, RIA news agency reported.

"This is subject to further discussion," he was quoted as saying.

Gatilov said the meeting was constructive and had achieved progress but that the Syria conference would not be held before July, Interfax reported. He said Russian, American and U.N. officials would probably meet again in late June.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Alistair Lyon)

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