Syrian opposition demonstrators shout anti Syrian government slogans as they demonstrate with Syrian opposition and Kurdish flags outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
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The face-to-face meeting had been planned for Friday, but the opposition said early on it would not meet the government side unless it first agreed to endorse a 2012 statement by world powers calling for a transitional government in Syria.After separate meetings with government and opposition delegations, U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi indicated Friday afternoon their argument, which centers on whether or not Assad would have to step down, had been put on one side.Brahimi made clear the talks, scheduled to last another week, would not be easy.Brahimi said discussions so far had been "encouraging" but that talks on concrete issues had not yet begun. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told reporters the opposition had been the obstacle to talks.On Friday, Iran, accused by Western leaders of backing Lebanon's Hezbollah, whose fighters have helped Assad reverse rebel advances, called for an end to foreign interference in Syria, where arms and funds have flowed in from a range of countries.Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also called for the withdrawal of all forces from Syria, including Hezbollah fighters who are backing Assad.
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