In his speech, al-Moallem accused the West and neighboring countries of funneling money, weapons and foreign fighters to the rebellion.

The United States is criticizing Syria’s top diplomat for his “inflammatory” speech at an international peace conference aimed at ending the country’s brutal conflict.

The State Department said Wednesday that remarks from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem were not in keeping with the spirit or aims of the gathering, which is intended to begin the process of forming a transitional government. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that instead of laying out a “positive vision” for Syria’s future, al-Moallem chose “inflammatory rhetoric.”

In his speech, al-Moallem accused the West and neighboring countries of funneling money, weapons and foreign fighters to the rebellion.

Directly addressing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, al-Moallem said no one had the right to remove Bashar Assad except Syrians.

Mr Kerry said that Mr Assad had lost the legitimacy to lead and would have no place in a transitional government.

Al-Moallem also refused to give up the podium to Ban Ki-moon, telling the U.N. chief- “You live in New York, I live in Syria.”

Opposition reaction

Meanwhile, the head of Syria’s Western-backed opposition said any discussion of President Bashar Assad staying in power will effectively end peace talks before they have begun.

Ahmad al-Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition, said the purpose of the peace conference beginning Wednesday in Switzerland was to set up a transitional government.

The peace talks in the Swiss city of Montreux marked the first time the opposition and the Syrian government will sit down face to face since their dispute began in March 2011.

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