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National and world

September 16, 2013

UN: 'Convincing evidence' of Syria chemical attack

(Continued)

UNITED NATIONS —

Meanwhile, invitations were going out Monday to top members of the Syrian National Coalition — the main umbrella opposition group — for an international conference in New York timed to coincide with next week's U.N. General Assembly meeting, French officials said.

Bolstering the Western-backed SNC is just as crucial to Syria's future as Assad's agreement to give up chemical arms, said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

"He must understand that there is no military victory, no possible military victory for him," Fabius said. He acknowledged that broad popular support for the rebels has been hampered by fears that Islamic militants are now playing a major role in the 2 ½-year-old uprising.

In briefing the allies, Kerry was pressing for support for the ambitious agreement that averted threatened U.S. military strikes. It calls for an inventory of Syria's chemical weapons program within one week, with all components of the program out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

Those who blame Assad for the chemical attack and supported military strikes say it is up to Assad to uphold his end of any deal.

"It is extremely important that there are no evasions, that there is no cat and mouse game going on over these weapons," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Kerry acknowledged the chemical arms deal would have little immediate effect on the bloodshed in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000 people, but he said full compliance was a key first step.

In Geneva, Pinheiro said the "vast majority" of casualties in Syria's civil war came from conventional weapons like guns and mortars.

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