Syria’s Islamic Front spurns talks with US

December 19, 2013 - 6:55:03 am

A building is damaged after an air strike from forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad in Aleppo yesterday.

BEIRUT: Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar Al Assad’s forces in Syria have rejected overtures from the United States to sit down and talk, a senior US diplomat said.

The Syrian government said it was “reprehensible” that Washington was prepared to enter a dialogue with the Islamic Front, which comprises six major rebel groups and which Damascus considers a terrorist organisation.

The developments highlighted Washington’s difficulties in engaging with the faction-ridden rebels in Syria’s civil war.

With five weeks to go before UN peace talks, it is unclear who will represent the opposition, and the clock is ticking towards a December 27 deadline set by UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi for both sides to name their delegations.

“The Islamic Front has refused to sit with us, without giving any reason,” US Syria envoy Robert Ford told Al Arabiya television, speaking in Arabic, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry said such talks might take place. “We are ready to sit with them because we talk to all parties and political groups in Syria,” Ford said.

The Islamic Front has overshadowed the more moderate Free Syrian Army, which is formally led by the Supreme Military Council (SMC) and backed by Western and Arab powers Reuters

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