Syria calls on dissidents, refugees to return home

AP News
Posted: Jan 25, 2013 3:14 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's government is calling on hundreds of thousands of citizens who fled the country during the civil war to come home.

That includes opponents of President Bashar Assad.

The state-run SANA news agency says the government will help citizens return, whether they left "legally or illegally." Syrian opposition figures who want to take part in reconciliation talks will also be allowed back, SANA reported late Thursday.

The talks are part of Assad's initiative to end the conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives. The opposition has rejected the initiative, insisting Assad must step down.

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More than half million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries during the 22-month civil war. They include opposition activists and defectors, including army officers, who have switched to the rebel side, fighting to topple Assad.