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GENEVA, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Jarba said on Thursday he had been assured by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow was not holding on to President Bashar al-Assad, but that Syrians should negotiate his exit through a political process.
"We met Lavrov in Paris last week and he confirmed to me that Russia is not holding on to Assad," Jarba told reporters in Geneva.
He said Lavrov had told him the solution should be negotiated "between Syrians themselves through a political process."
In a defiant speech, Jarba added that the international community had now realised there was no future for Assad.
"I believe that the world is now convinced that Assad cannot stay in power and will not be able to stay in power.
"We have started to look into the future without him. Assad and all of his regime is in the past now. Nobody should have any doubt that the head of the regime is finished. This regime is dead," Jarba said.
He said the talks would be difficult, long and would look at all "core issues" as a package deal, including the creation of a transitional governing body.
"This is the basis of our negotiations and we will demand it."
An aide to Jarba said the talks would start tomorrow at the United Nations in Geneva, but the two parties would not meet face to face for now.
"If Assad were able to rule Syria, we wouldn't have been here today." (Reporting By Samia Nakhoul, Mariam Karouny and John Irish)
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