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Assad's Fate is Key as Syria Talks Open

Talks to end Syria's civil war opened in Geneva on Monday, but hopes for a breakthrough remained remote with the sides locked in a bitter dispute over the future of President Bashar Assad.

The U.N.-hosted negotiations, which began a day before the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict, are the latest effort to end violence that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

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IS Commander Shishani 'Clinically Dead'

Top Islamic State group commander Omar al-Shishani has been "clinically dead" for several days after a U.S. air strike in northern Syria, a monitoring group said Sunday. 

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French FM Says Muallem Remarks on Assad 'Provocation, Bad Sign'

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hit out Sunday at comments by his Syrian counterpart that removing President Bashar Assad would cross a "red line" in the negotiations, describing them as a "provocation" and a "bad sign" for the attempts to find peace.

Muallem said in Damascus Saturday: "We will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency... Bashar Assad is a red line."

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Syria Rivals Clash ahead of Peace Talks

Syria's warring sides prepared Sunday for a new round of peace talks after locking horns over the fate of President Bashar Assad, with the regime insisting his ouster was a "red line" while the opposition vowed to see him go -- dead or alive.

The UN-brokered indirect negotiations are due to begin in Geneva on Monday, the latest international push to find a solution to Syria's five-year civil war, which has killed more than 270,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

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Syria Regime Says Assad Ouster 'Red Line' ahead of Peace Talks

Syria's warring sides clashed over the fate of President Bashar Assad on Saturday, with the government vowing his ouster remains a "red line" for looming peace talks while the opposition vowed to see him go -- dead or alive.

The UN-brokered, indirect negotiations due to begin in Geneva on Monday are the latest international push to find a solution to Syria's five-year civil war, which has killed more than 270,000 people.

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U.S., Russia to Meet on Syria Truce Violations ahead of Geneva Talks

U.S. and Russian officials were to meet Saturday on Syrian opposition charges of truce violations by the regime but peace talks remain on course, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Asked at the end of a visit to Saudi Arabia whether indirect dialogue in Geneva between the Syrian regime and opposition could go ahead as planned on Monday, Kerry said: "Yes, it can."

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Justice Must Be Done for Syria War Crimes, Says U.N. Prosecutor

The chief prosecutor for the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said Friday that those behind atrocities in Syria must eventually be held to account, as the conflict prepares to enter its sixth year.

"As an international prosecutor and somebody who believes in justice... it is obvious that sooner or later accountability will be needed for the crimes committed in Syria," Serge Brammertz told AFP.

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Lavrov Urges U.N. Envoy to Include Kurds in Syria Talks

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday urged the U.N.'s special envoy on Syria to include Kurds in upcoming talks that aim to resolve the five-year Syrian civil war.

"I am convinced that Staffan de Mistura should take such a decision," Lavrov told reporters at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart.

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Fifth Year of War 'Worst yet' for Syrians, Say NGOs

Syria's fifth year of war was the worst yet for civilians increasingly beset by aid blockades and sieges, humanitarian groups said Friday ahead of the anniversary of the uprising.

"Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom must now safeguard the glimmer of hope that the ceasefire has brought to civilians, rather than 'adding fuel to the fire'," the report said, referring to a partial truce that has largely held since February 27.

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Syria's Domestic Opposition to Boycott Parliamentary Vote

Syria's main domestic opposition body Thursday called for a widespread boycott of parliamentary elections next month, accusing the government of using the vote to gain leverage in peace talks.

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