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Syrian FM claims some rebels eat human hearts

UNITED NATIONS Syria's foreign minister has claimed at the U.N. that his regime is fighting a war against al-Qaida linked militants who eat human hearts and dismember people while they are still alive, then send their limbs to family members.

Walid al-Moallem also claimed in a speech to world leaders on Monday that the U.S., Britain and France had blocked the naming of the real perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks. President Barack Obama told the U.N. last week that it was the Syrian regime that was behind a chemical weapons attack in August that killed hundreds and brought threats of a U.S. strike.

Al-Moallem also claimed "terrorists" fighting the regime in the civil war are being supplied with chemical weapons, but he did not name specific nations accused of supplying them.

The Syrian foreign minister has thrust himself in the spotlight several times for his inflammatory comments since the start of the uprising in Syria, behavior which led the U.S. State Department to rather undiplomatically declare him a "shameless tool and a mouthpiece" of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Also on Monday, al-Moallem said the main Western-backed opposition group should not take part in a future peace conference because it had overwhelmingly supported a U.S. strike against Damascus over an attack last month in which chemical weapons were used.

A Russian initiative eventually averted a U.S. strike and led to the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution to have Syria dismantle its chemical weapons program. The resolution, passed after two weeks of white-knuckle negotiations, marked a major breakthrough in diplomatic efforts since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.

U.N. Security Council votes 15-0 to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons

The U.N. resolution passed unanimously Friday aims to strip President Bashar Assad's regime of its estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal by mid-2014. It also calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, though the Security Council would have to pass another resolution to impose any penalties.

The U.N. resolution also endorsed the roadmap for a political transition in Syria adopted by key nations in June 2012, and called for an international conference to be convened "as soon as possible" to implement it.

U.S. and Russian efforts are also focusing on holding that conference, perhaps as soon as November in Geneva.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem's comments put a damper on those efforts. He said senior Damascus government officials would not sit down to talk with the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group in exile that supported the possibility of a U.S. strike.

Al-Moallem told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV late Sunday that the group "is not popular in Syria and lost a lot among Syrians when it called on the U.S. to attack Syria militarily, meaning that it called for attacking the Syrian people."

Assad has previously said the government won't talk to armed rebels and militants - but al-Moallem's remarks seem to have expanded the government's list of the undesirable talking partners.

Al-Moallem, the foreign minister, said there are other opposition groups in Syria that should be represented in future peace talks, "but not the coalition."

The comments are certain to further complicate efforts to hold the talks.

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