Syria's Foreign Minister and head of the Syrian government delegation Walid Muallem, speaks during peace talks of the so-called Geneva II conference in Montreux on January 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO UN PHOTO / JEAN-MARC FERRE
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Syria's government declared that its main priority was stopping terrorism -- not ensuring peace -- and the opposition hinted it was far from ready to negotiate directly with the government it wants to overthrow, casting sharp doubt Thursday on peace talks that have barely begun.Haitham al-Maleh, a veteran Syrian opposition figure and a senior member of the coalition, said Thursday there may not be any face-to-face talks between the two delegations on Friday -- as had been hoped -- but rather mediator Lakhdar Brahimi would continue to shuttle between the two sides.Al-Maleh, a longtime opponent of Assad's rule who spent many years in Syrian prisons, said it was "not easy" to sit in the same room with Assad's officials at Wednesday's opening of the peace conference.Iran, a close ally of Assad's, was barred from participating in the Swiss-based talks to end Syria's civil war.
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