Louay Safi, spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, addresses the media after a meeting at the Geneva Conference on Syria, at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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A second round of Syria peace talks got off to a shaky start on Monday with the international mediator meeting the two sides separately after violations of a local cease-fire and an Islamist offensive set back his efforts.Ahead of the talks, mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told delegates to commit first to discussing both ending the fighting and setting up a transitional government. The opposition says a transitional governing body must exclude President Bashar al-Assad. The government says it will not discuss his leaving power.The government blames the rebels.The mediator plans to keep meeting the two sides separately in Geneva over the next few days in hopes of improving the atmosphere at the talks, which are expected to last a week.The Syrian government delegation urged him to condemn an Islamist offensive on Sunday which it said killed at least 41 people in the town of Maan in central Syria populated mainly by Assad's Alawite sect, a source said.
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