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Sec. Kerry, Arab League call for "urgent" Syria conference

LONDON U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.N-Arab League envoy for Syria said Monday that an international conference to set up a Syrian transitional government must be organized urgently and held as soon as possible.

"There has to be a transition government, there has to be a new governing entity in Syria in order to permit the possibility of peace," Kerry said. He said it was imperative to get the so-called "Geneva II" conference organized by a mid-November target the United Nations has set.

Kerry and envoy Lakhdar Brahimi spoke to reporters after meeting at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Britain.

"There can be, there will be, a political solution if everyone gets together and works for it," Brahimi said. "Very soon we have to set a precise date."

Syria's civil war, now in its third year, has killed more than 100,000 people.

A car bomb in a rebel held town in the northwest part of the country killed at least a dozen people on Monday, a day after two car bombs exploded in Damascus near the state television building. Car bombs are becoming more common in the conflict.

Also complicating the situation in Syria is the increased danger posed to NGOs attempting humanitarian assistance in the conference.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that a Red Crescent volunteer and three of six kidnapped Red Cross staffers have been released to safety in Syria.

Gunmen abducted a team of seven workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross after stopping their convoy early Sunday in northern Syria, a spokesman said, in the latest high-profile kidnapping in the country's civil war.

"We believe it is urgent to set a date, convene the conference and work towards a new Syria," Kerry said.

He said that Syrian President Bashar Assad "has lost the legitimacy to be able to be a cohesive force that could bring people together."


Assad himself has been dismissive of any transitional plans that don't leave him in charge. In an interview with Charlie Rose last month, he insisted he still has the support of most Syrians.

In response to suggestions he's lost popular support, Assad asked how with "even the big part, or the bigger part of the Syrian population against me, how can I withstand 'til today? I'm either superhuman or superman, which is not the case."

The planned Geneva II conference is aimed at implementing an agreement hammered out last year in the same Swiss city that calls for the establishment of a transitional government that would run Syria and prepare it for democratic elections.

Brahimi said he'll travel to the Middle East this week to see representatives of all sides to try to plan and set a specific date for the meeting.

Kerry was in London on the last stop of a an extended two-week overseas trip that has also taken him to Japan, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Afghanistan.

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