Saudi Arabia still sees no role for Assad in Syrian transition

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia, a main backer of Syrian rebels, said on Sunday it still supported an international agreement on the future of Syria and President Bashar al-Assad should have no role in any transition to bring the war there to an end.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry denied media reports that Saudi Arabia was considering a political transition with a first phase in which Assad will stay in power.

Several media, including the state-owned Russia Today, said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had informed the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) about the decision.

A ministry statement, carried by the Saudi state news agency SPA, called the reports attributed to al-Jubeir “inaccurate”.

“The position of the kingdom on the Syrian crisis is firm, and it is based on the Geneva 1 communique and on U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 that stipulated the formation of a transitional body that will run the country,” it said.

The agreement also called for drafting a new constitution and holding a new election with no role for Assad in the whole transitional process.

Saudi Arabia supports the HNC and its efforts to widen its membership and unify the Syrian opposition, the statement said.

The announcement came ahead of the next round of United Nations-led Syria peace talks expected in September. Assad’s negotiators have not met directly with the opposition because there is no unified delegation as the HNC and two other groups, known as the Cairo and Moscow platforms, all claim to represent the opposition.

Reporting By Ahmed Tolba, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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