Created: 01/24/2014 5:45 AM KSTP.com
By: Jennie Olson
Direct talks planned between President Bashar Assad's government and the Western-backed opposition hoping to overthrow him were scrapped Friday, and the two sides will meet a U.N. mediator in different rooms at different times.
The separate meetings are a major setback for a peace conference that has been on the verge of collapse since it was first floated in 2012 as a path out of the civil war that began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad.
U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi was meeting first with a government delegation and later Friday with representatives from the Syrian National Coalition, said U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci.
Bouthaina Shaaban, an advisor to Assad who traveled to Geneva for the talks, blamed the coalition and questioned whether it is prepared to negotiate an end to the violence.
"We came here with Syria and the Syrian people on our mind, only while they came here with positions and posts on their mind," she said, minutes before her delegation drove into the U.N. offices for talks with Brahimi.
The Syrian National Coalition, which is made up largely of exiles, lacks influence with an increasingly radicalized rebellion, which has been pulled apart by an influx of increasingly radicalized militants. Infighting among rebels has left 1,400 people dead in the past 20 days, according to activists, who have counted more than 130,000 deaths since the rebellion began in 2011.
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