- - Sunday, November 18, 2012

TEHRAN — Iran held a conference Sunday to reconcile Syria’s government with opposition factions and end the country’s civil war, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The report said the one-day meeting of some 200 opposition members and Syria’s National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar could be a step toward a future, broad-based opposition gathering, although it did not say if any of Syria’s major rebel or exile groups had attended.

Most of those groups distrust Iran, a key ally of their adversary President Bashar Assad.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned at the opening of the meeting that providing opposition groups with heavy arms could put the entire region at risk of “organized terrorism.”

He said that arming Mr. Assad’s opponents, as Damascus accuses Qatar and Saudi Arabia of doing, violates international law and principles of non-intervention in countries’ domestic affairs.

Mr. Salehi reiterated Iran’s traditional stance on Syria, blaming “foreign intervention and irresponsible armed groups” for the country’s uprising. He said Iran supports peaceful solutions to end the crisis.

The conference is seen as a reaction to last week’s meeting in Qatar in which opposition groups formed an umbrella coalition to topple Mr. Assad.

GREECE

ECB: Greece will need more aid through 2014

BERLIN — Greece will need yet more international financial assistance beyond the agreed bailout programs through 2014, a European Central Bank board member said Sunday.

The government in Athens probably won’t be able to return to finance its debt on financial markets in 2015 and 2016, thus requiring another assistance program, Joerg Asmussen told German public broadcaster ZDF.

Many of Greece’s partners in the 17-nation eurozone loathe granting Greece yet more funds and more long-term assistance, not least German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is heading into an election year.

International creditors have kept debt-ridden Greece afloat since 2010 and have pledged rescue loans worth $306 billion through 2014 because the country could no longer refinance its debt on markets.

Investors demanded prohibitive interest rates from Greece as they feared the country might default on its debt.

But a much deeper than expected recession and delays in implementing austerity measures and reforms have created a new budget shortfall of some $38 billion under the current bailout program.

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