France, Britain and China to be in Syria peace talks: Fabius

PARIS (AFP) - Britain, France and China will be involved in a peace conference on Syria due in Geneva in November, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday.

The US-Russia peace initiative, dubbed Geneva 2, will involve all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Fabius told France Inter radio, rebuffing a claim by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the Europeans had no role to play.

Fabius said Geneva 2 should aim to reach agreement on a "transition government for a united Syria that respects minorities." "Mr Bashar al-Assad can say what he wants," Fabius said.

"In Geneva 2, we want to find an accord between the representatives of the regime and the moderate opposition, so that it is not the terrorists, the extremists, Al-Qaeda who reap the benefits," he added.

Fabius said extremists only comprised about 20 percent of the opposition fighters.

Assad, who has pledged to comply with a UN resolution and hand over chemical weapons for destruction, said in an interview on Sunday that European countries had no place in the Geneva 2 talks.

"Frankly, most European countries are unable to play a role in Geneva 2, because they do not have all the necessary factors to succeed in such a role," the Syrian President was quoted as saying by Syria's official news agency.

"They have adopted the United States' policy in their relations with the countries (of the Middle East) ever since George Bush was president. How can they play a role if they lack credibility?"