Jan. 24 - Syria's first peace talks were on the verge of collapsing before they began, with the opposition refusing to meet President Bashar al-Assad's delegation and the government threatening to bring its team home. Mana Rabiee reports.
It was supposed to be a first in Syria's three-year-long war. Direct peace talks between the government and opposition. But on Friday in Geneva, the talks were on the verge of collapsing even before they really began. The plan was to get the two sides to sit down together in one room. But that idea was ditched at the last minute. Instead, a U.N. spokeswoman said each side would meet separately with a U.N. mediator. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.N. SPOKESWOMAN ALESSANDRA VELLUCCI SAYING: "There is, for the moment, no meetings going on in parallel at the same time." The opposition says it won't meet President Bashar al Assad's delegation until it first signs a protocol calling for political transition that will remove Assad from power. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE SYRIAN NATIONAL COALITION BADR JAMOUS SAYING: "If the regime came here to look for something we are not looking for, then they'd better go somewhere else and look for it." The government rejected that demand outright. Saying its negotiators will go home if no "serious" talks are held within a day. Any direct meeting appear unlikely. The U.N. mediator says he'll seek practical steps for now. Like local ceasefires, prisoner releases and access for aid groups.