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Khurshid to lead India at Syria talks

New Delhi, Jan. 21: Foreign minister Salman Khurshid will represent India at the United Nations-sponsored Geneva-II peace talks aimed at resolving Syria’s three-year-old civil war where he will press key nations to refrain from a military intervention that had appeared imminent last August.

Khurshid today left for Switzerland and will join external affairs ministers from 37 other nations at the conference that will begin tomorrow in Montreux, close to Geneva, in the backdrop of last-minute jockeying between the UN and the US over Iran’s participation.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon had sent an invitation to Iran to join the talks, but the US protested arguing that Tehran had not supported efforts to put in place a transitional government replacing the current Syrian government of Bashar al Assad. Ban withdrew the invitation on Tuesday.

Fresh documentary evidence suggesting that the Syrian government used torture against rebels has also strengthened the hands of nations seeking strong action — including possible military intervention — against the Assad regime.

Germany, Australia, Japan and the US had last July tried to forge a global alliance that would launch a limited military assault on Syria, but called off plans after a majority of nations at the G-20 in St. Petersburg opposed their move. India was among the key nations that along with Russia opposed any military intervention.

That, officials said, will remain India's position at the Geneva -II conference.