Syria says it's prepared to talk with armed rebels; blast hits capital

Posted at 10:24 PM, Feb 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-06 11:27:56-05

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria says it's prepared to hold talks with the armed rebels bent on overthrowing President Bashar Assad.

The offer, by Syria's foreign minister during a visit to Moscow, did not spell out whether rebels would have to lay down their weapons before negotiations could begin, which has been a crucial sticking point in the past.

But it does come as a sign that Assad's regime is growing increasingly nervous about its long-term prospects to hold onto power as opposition fighters make slow but persistent advances in the civil war.

Syrian rebels have vowed to stop at nothing less than Assad's downfall and are seen as unlikely to agree to sit down with a leader they accuse of mass atrocities.

The proposal came hours before residents of Damascus and state-run TV reported a huge explosion in the capital. The blast was followed by gunfire and caused panic in the capital, although the target was not immediately clear and it was not known if there were any casualties.