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Syria conference on track for June, says Kerry | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks, during a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday, May 14, 2013 (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks, during a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday, May 14, 2013 (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian government has drawn up a list of delegates for the peace conference proposed by US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, although a spokesman said it has not yet decided to take part.

Speaking to reporters at a conference in Sweden yesterday, Kerry told reporters that he had been informed by Lavrov that the Russian government had received a list of names of people from the Syrian government who would negotiate on its behalf.

This followed a declaration from Syrian information minister Omran Al-Zoubi earlier on Tuesday that the Syrian government required more information about the conference before deciding to attend.

In Sweden, Kerry told reporters that he had met again with Lavrov, who was also in Sweden, to discuss the conference, and that he expected it to take place in early June under the auspices of the United Nations. He also said that the Syrian government would probably take part.

“If he decides not to come to the table, it would be another one of President Assad’s gross miscalculations,” said the US secretary of state. “I don’t believe that that is the case at this moment.”

He also said that he had been in contact with members of the Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) chief of staff, Salim Idris, who were committed to take part in negotiations.

Elsewhere, the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict in Syria was highlighted by events in the country and in neighboring Lebanon. A video that appeared online this week sparked outrage when it appeared to show one rebel leader, tentatively identified as Khaled Al-Hamad of the Independent Omar Al-Farouk Brigade, mutilating the remains of a Alawite Syrian solider and taking a bite out of one of the internal organs, possibly the lung or liver.

In an interview with TIME magazine, Hamad, a Sunni, said he posted the video in retaliation for the massacres and sexual violence meted out by Syrian government forces.

“[The Alawites] were the ones who killed our children in Baba Amr and raped our women,” he said. “They were the ones who slaughtered the children and women in Bayda. We didn’t start it; they started it.”

He added: “Our slogan is ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’”

Other rebel groups, including the leadership of the FSA, condemned his actions.

Meanwhile, Alawites in Lebanon, who comprise approximately 2 percent of the population of the neighbouring state, say they are increasingly alarmed by sectarian tensions stoked by the conflict next door.

Several residents of the Jabal Mohsen district of the northern city of Tripoli, an Alawaite enclave, told Associated Press this week that sectarian attacks have become more frequent and violent.