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Don't let issue of Assad's fate hold up Syrian peace - U.N.'s Ban

GENEVA (Reuters) - Disagreements over the fate of President Bashar al-Assad should not hold up a humanitarian ceasefire or a wider deal to end the war in Syria, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday.

Ban spoke after issuing a call with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, for states to stand up for international law and stop wars.

He said Syrian government forces had clearly broken international law by deliberately targeting civilians, including with air strikes on besieged areas and a government missile attack on a market on Friday, which medical workers said killed at least 70.

“I believe that the future of Syria, or the future of all these peace talks, the Syrian-led negotiation, should not be held up by an issue of the future of one man,” Ban told a news conference in Geneva.

“Basically I believe that it is up to the Syrian people who have to decide the future of President Assad.”

Ban’s remarks came the day after 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations met in Vienna and proposed a nationwide truce in Syria’s civil war.

He said the Vienna meeting was the first time that “all the countries that hold the key to a resolution” had been present.

“While I know that substantial differences still remain, I hope that in the coming days and weeks they will be able to make further progress towards a Syrian-led political solution to the crisis,” he said.

The Vienna meeting discussed Assad’s fate, but focused more on restarting the process of peace talks, he said.

The United Nations was ready to help implement a ceasefire, which was the most pressing need, and to launch a political process leading to “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections.”

“In that course I believe that the future of President Assad will be decided,” he said.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tom Heneghan