A handout picture released by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) shows SNC president Ahmad Jarba speaking during a press conferance on January 18, 2014 at a hotel in a suburb of Istanbul. AFP PHOTO/Syrian National Coalition Media Office
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Western leaders have hailed a decision by Syria's opposition to attend an international peace conference next week alongside representatives of a regime they despise and remain determined to overthrow.Assad's government, which brands rebels fighting his regime as "terrorists", made concessions ahead of the conference that opens on Wednesday but said the president will not step down.These diametrically opposed positions cast a shadow over the so-called Geneva II conference aimed at setting up a transitional government to lead Syria out of a nearly three-year war estimated to have killed more than 130,00 people and forced millions from their homes.The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army, General Selim Idriss, called for a "peaceful resolution" to the Syria war, and urged the opposition to work to end Assad's 14-year grip on power.More than 35 countries will gather in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva from Wednesday for the peace conference, as reports from Syria spoke of more bloodletting and infighting among rebels.
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