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China snubs Paris Syrian summit

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10:06 CEST+02:00

China said on Thursday it would not attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris that is aiming to coordinate Western and Arab efforts to stop violence in the country.

"(China) at present does not consider attending the meeting," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters when asked about a French invitation to be involved in the event that is due to take place on Friday.

The Paris meeting follows one in Tunis in February and another in April in Istanbul that both called in vain for tougher action against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The United States, France, Britain, Germany, along with Arab nations Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are leaders of the "Friends of Syria".

The group has more than 60 members, including most of the EU states and many Arab League countries.

But Russia, a long-time ally of Assad's regime, has said it will stay away from the Paris meeting after accusing the West of seeking to distort a weekend deal by world powers in Geneva aimed at achieving a transition of power.

China backed Russia in Geneva on insisting that Syrians must decide how the transition should be carried out, rather than allow others to dictate their fate, and did not rule out Assad remaining in power in some form.

The Western powers have said Assad should not be part of any new unity government.

China did not attend the previous two "Friends of Syria" meetings.

Fighting in Syria has intensified in recent weeks as government and opposition forces have received more weapons from foreign backers. Monitors say the conflict has killed more than 16,500 people since March last year.

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