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Syrian talks should be rights based, U.N. says

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Parties to a conference on Syria, scheduled Wednesday in Switzerland, should put human rights at the forefront of the agenda, U.N. representatives said Tuesday.

"The lives, future and fundamental human rights of millions of affected civilians are at stake in Syria," Chaloka Beyani, a rights envoy, said in a statement Tuesday on behalf of U.N. human rights representatives.

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The U.N. representatives issued an open letter to those taking part in the conference in Geneva. They said extra attention should be paid to the estimated 6.5 million people in Syria who are displaced internally by violence and the 2.4 million who have already fled to neighboring countries.

The death toll, Beyani said, is "well over" 100,000 since conflict began in March 2011. Apart from conflict between pro- and anti-government forces, he said the violence is having a "horrific impact" on the lives of civilian women and children.

"War crimes and crimes against humanity have been documented [and] perpetrators of such violations must be held accountable," he said.

A 31-page document published Monday by the Guardian newspaper in London and cable news broadcaster CNN highlights accounts of human rights abuses committed allegedly by the Syrian government.

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A June road map outlined in Geneva calls for a transition government to lead Syria out of the crisis. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a Monday statement "bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a long overdue political transition" would be at the top of Wednesday's agenda.

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