Syria has dismissed its deputy prime minister. Qadri Jamil spoke with US officials in Geneva over the weekend to discuss the possibility of holding a peace conference for Syria in that city, according to news agencies.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sacked a deputy prime minister who had met US officials over the weekend, the official government news agency reported on Tuesday, saying he had acted without permission.
"Jamil was dismissed because he left his center of work without prior permission and did not follow up on his duties …" read a statement posted on Syria TV. "Additionally, he undertook activities outside the nation without coordinating with the government."
Syria's conflict began as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people. The United States and Russia hope to get peace talks started, but the rebels want assurances of Assad's removal and Syria's government rejects any preconditions over the deal.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Syria would attend peace talks but that it remained up to voters to decide their political future and leadership. State television reported that Moualem made the remarks during a meeting with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus, in which he said Syrians also rejected "any form of foreign intervention."
Also on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that samples from 10 of 22 children who were being investigated had contained the wild polio virus. This month, the 22 children from Deir al-Zor province had experienced acute flaccid paralysis, which can denote the presence of polio. WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer said the confirmed cases were among babies and toddlers who were "underimmunized" and that the risk of a rapid spread of the disease was high under the circumstances.
mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)