Western and Arab powers agreed with Syrian opposition leaders yesterday that President Bashar al-Assad should be excluded from any future government, but urged the rebels to take part in a peace conference in Geneva.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after a meeting in London that the rebels had to overcome their differences and commit themselves to the talks in the Swiss city that are due to take place in late November.
But a defiant Assad said he was willing to run for re-election in 2014, a move further likely to anger a key rebel group that has so far refused to take part in the Geneva 2 conference if regime figures are present.
Hague said during a press conference after the meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria that they had agreed a "number of important steps" during a meeting with Ahmad Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition.
"We are as clear as he is that Assad has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria," Hague said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the world to help find a negotiated settlement for Syria, adding that the country itself could disintegrate if more is not done.
"The only alternative to a negotiated settlement is continued if not increased killing," Kerry told reporters.
"We believe that the state of war will simply lead to the implosion of the state of Syria."
The London talks grouped Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and the US together with Syrian opposition leaders.