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"It is part of political jostling for representation ahead of any talks," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the he was not authorized to talk about the discussions under way in New York.
Al-Jarba met Wednesday with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in New York. Al-Jarba said the coalition expressed readiness to attend talks in Geneva aimed at establishing a transitional government with full executive powers and a clear timetable for an agreement that those in Assad’s regime responsible for war crimes against civilians would be held accountable and not be part of a future democratic Syria.
"The time has come to end the conflict in Syria," said al-Jarba, according to a coalition statement. It was not immediately clear if the coalition was relinquishing its previous demand that Assad step down ahead of such talks.
A U.S. official said the United States and its allies were discussing the rebel announcement, adding it’s too early to tell what the impact will be. Another U.S. official said the U.S. and its allies are increasingly concerned by infighting between the FSA and al-Qaida militants in northern and eastern Syria.
Both spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss Kerry’s meetings.
The opposition has long been hobbled by divisions between those in exile and the disparate rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime in Syria’s civil war, which has killed over 100,000 since March 2011.
The insurgency has increasingly drawn jihadis from all over the world, further adding to the West’s reluctance to get militarily involved in the Syrian conflict or send advanced weapons to the rebels. There is growing concern among moderates that the dominant role the extremists are playing is discrediting the rebellion.
Among the signatories of Wednesday’s statement are the Islamist-leaning Ahrar al-Sham and Liwaa al-Islam brigades, both powerful rebel factions with large followings on the ground, as well as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. Three of them — the Liwaa al-Tawheed, the Liwaa al-Islam, and the Suqour al-Sham — have until now been part of the Free Syrian Army, considered to be the Coalition’s military wing.
Growing rebel infighting may further complicate the work of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors who face enormous challenges on the ground, including maneuvering between rebel- and government-controlled territory.
A team of experts arrived Wednesday in Damascus to continue investigating what officials from the world organization have described as "pending credible allegations" of the use of chemical weapons.
The visit of the six-member team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, follows a report by the inspectors after a previous trip. The report said the nerve agent sarin was used in an Aug. 21, attack near Damascus.
The U.S. and its allies say Assad’s regime was behind the attack that killed hundreds of people. Damascus and its ally, Moscow, blame the rebels for the attack.
The U.N. experts will be investigating three alleged uses of chemical weapons earlier this year and seeking information on three alleged incidents last month.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the mission will discuss with the Syrian government "information that it may possess regarding allegations it reported on the use of chemical weapons" in incidents on Aug. 22, 24 and 25.
He said the inspectors will visit the village of Khan al-Assal near Aleppo to probe a March 19 incident, as well as two other sites. The inspectors identified them in last week’s report as Sheik Maqsood and Saraqueb.
Also Wednesday, activists said Kurdish gunmen captured the village of Hmaid in the northeastern province of Hassakeh after heavy fighting with members of al-Qaida’s Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Nusra Front. It came nearly an hour after Kurdish gunmen took the nearby village of Dardara.
Omar Mushaweh, a spokesman for Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood group which is part of the coalition, blasted the rebel statement and said the infighting is dividing the rebellion at a critical time.
"The only one who benefits from these side wars is the regime," he said.
Associated Press writer Mathew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
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