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Deal reached to let food into blockaded Syrian town

BEIRUT — Government officials and rebels reached a deal Sunday to ease a weeks-long blockade on Qudsaya, a rebel-held town near the Syrian capital, allowing food to reach civilians there for the first time in weeks, activists said.

The truce is the latest to be struck in recent months between President Bashar Assad’s government and disparate rebel groups throughout the war-ravaged country.

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It comes as the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group was holding the second of two days of meetings in Istanbul to decide whether to attend a proposed peace conference the United States and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva by the end of this year.

The Syrian National Coalition has demanded that Assad step down in any transitional government as a condition for participation in the talks. Syrian officials say Assad will stay in his post at least until his term ends in 2014 and that he may run for reelection.

Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said discussions were still ongoing Sunday night.

‘‘There are people who are concerned and worried that not enough preparation has taken place. And there are those who would like to make a decision but with some preparation,’’ he told reporters in Istanbul.

The coalition is also expected to approve a list of cabinet of ministers presented by interim prime minister, Ahmad Toumeh, who was elected in September.

The Western-backed group also has called for good-will measures from the Assad government, including lifting sieges on rebel-held areas. It wasn’t clear whether the deal in Qudsaya was such a gesture, as neither rebels nor Syrian officials comment on such deals.

An activist group, the Qudsaya Media Team, confirmed the truce in a statement but gave few details. In an earlier statement this month, it said local markets had run out of food and the area’s poorest residents were going hungry. Qudsaya Media Team could not be immediately reached for comment.

Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deal allowed food and flour to enter the town on the outskirts of Damascus, under blockade since October. The Observatory monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground.

In recent weeks, a variety of Syrian mediators has been trying to ease blockades in several areas, with modest success.

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