John Kerry taking first overseas trip as new Secretary of State, working to solve Syrian conflict

LONDON (AP) - The U.S. is frantically trying to salvage a Syrian opposition conference that John Kerry plans to attend this week during his first official overseas trip as U.S. secretary of state.

A senior Obama administration official said Sunday that Kerry has sent his top Syrian envoy to Cairo in hopes of convincing opposition leaders that their participation in the conference in Rome is critical to addressing questions from potential donors and securing additional aid from the United States and Europe.

Some members of the sharply divided Syrian Opposition Council are threatening to boycott Wednesday's meeting, which is the centerpiece of Kerry's nine-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East.

According to the official, U.S. envoy Robert Ford will say that the conference is a chance for foes of Syrian President Bashar Assad to make their case for new and enhanced aid -- and get to know America's new chief diplomat, who has said he wants to propose new ideas to pressure Assad into leave power.

The official was not authorized to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.


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