Syria says West in talks on security

DAMASCUS - Western intelligence agencies have visited Damascus for talks on combating radical Islamist groups, Syria's deputy foreign minister has told the BBC.

Faisal Mekdad said there was a schism between Western security officials and politicians who are pressing President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The growth of jihadist groups among rebels fighting President Assad has caused international concern.

Syrian government officials are due to attend peace talks in Geneva next week.

However, the main opposition alliance, the National Coalition, has still not decided whether or not to take part.

Correspondents say the growing disarray of the opposition is frustrating the West and bolstering the confidence of the Syrian government.

In a recent interview, Mr Mekdad told the BBC that many Western governments had finally understood that there was no alternative to the leadership of President Assad.

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