Syrian insurgents say pull out of opposition talks, highlight rifts

The talks in Saudi Arabia were intended to bring together fractured opposition activists and rebels. 

Riyadh: A powerful Islamist insurgent group said it pulled out of a Syrian opposition meeting in Riyadh on Thursday because rebel proposals had been ignored, in a move which highlighted the enduring divisions among President Bashar al-Assad`s enemies.

The talks in Saudi Arabia were intended to bring together fractured opposition activists and rebels ahead of proposed peace talks with Assad`s government which world powers proposed at a meeting in Vienna last month.

A statement at the end of the two-day conference called for an all-inclusive, democratic civic state. It said Assad should leave power at the start of a transitional period. It also committed to preserving state institutions.

But the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group said it had pulled out of the talks, objecting to what it said was a prominent role given to the internal political opposition group, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB). It said the NCB was considered to be a pro-Assad organisation, not opposition.

It also said the Saudi conference had not given "real weight to the revolutionary factions" either in terms of their representation at the talks or in the outcome.

The war pits the Syrian army and allied militias including Lebanese Hezbollah fighters backed by Iran and Russia, against an array of competing rebel and jihadi fighters, who include Arabs and Kurds. Islamic State and the al Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front were not on the Riyadh guest list.

Rifts among Assad`s opponents have hindered four years of Western efforts to mobilise a stronger political and military challenge to the president throughout a conflict which has killed 250,000 people and driven millions of refugees abroad.

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