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Syria Sacks Deputy PM Who Met US Officials

Updated: Tuesday, October 29 2013, 12:22 PM EDT

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Syria's president sacked a deputy prime minister who met U.S. officials over the weekend for acting without permission, the official government news agency said Tuesday.

Qadri Jamil held talks with U.S. officials in Geneva over the weekend to discuss the possibility of holding a peace conference for Syria in that city, according to a U.N. official. No breakthroughs were reported to have come out of the talks. The U.N. official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The state news agency SANA said a decree issued by President Bashar Assad relieved Jamil of his duties. His transgressions included "undertaking activities and meetings outside the homeland without coordination with the government," ''bypassing" state institutions and absence from his workplace without permission.

Western powers and the U.N. have been pushing for Syria's warring parties to meet at a conference in Geneva to try to negotiate a settlement to the three-year conflict.

Assad has said in principle that his government will attend talks, but it will not negotiate with the country's disparate armed rebel groups.

Syria's fractured opposition does not have a united stand on attending talks. A key sticking point is Assad's future. Much of the opposition rejects any transition plan in which he or his close associates are involved.

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Syria Sacks Deputy PM Who Met US Officials

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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.

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