Middle East

Top Syrian Islamic official urges talks: SANA

In this file photo, then U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, left, chats with Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmed Hassoun, center, and Patriarchal agent Luke Khouri of the Orthodox Church during a meeting with clerics in Damascus on March 11, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

DAMASCUS: Syria's top Islamic authority appealed to the opposition to seek "regime change through dialogue, not by force," the SANA state news agency said on Wednesday.

"Members of the foreign-based opposition will ultimately be forced to sit at the negotiating table," Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Hassun Badreddine was quoted as saying.

The Sunni Muslim cleric called on the opposition to "take the initiative," and urged armed insurgents "to throw down their weapons. Regime change does not come by force, but through dialogue," SANA quoted him as saying.

Hassun is close to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

His comments were published two days after a pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper ran an interview with Vice President Faruq al-Sharaa saying that he favours a negotiated solution to Syria's 21-month conflict.

"No opposition can end the battle militarily, just as the security forces and army cannot achieve a decisive conclusion," said Sharaa, calling for a "historic settlement" between the warring parties and backed by key regional countries and UN Security Council member states.





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