Syrian peace talks stuck over Assad's future

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Associated Press

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 22 at 4:34 PM

MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — With a peace conference on Syria off to a rocky start, a U.N. mediator will meet with opposing negotiators separately tomorrow to see if they can even sit together in face-to-face talks due to begin Friday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (bahn kee-moon) says "no one underestimated the difficulties" of the task at hand, or expected "instant breakthroughs" when the parties gathered today in Switzerland. But a bitter clash over the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad's future threatened to collapse the negotiations even before they began.

The U.S. and Syria's main Western-backed opposition opened the conference by saying Assad must go. Assad's representatives responded angrily, saying no one except Syrians could remove their leader, and Assad is not going to step down.

Complicating matters, both Assad's delegates and the opposition Syrian National Coalition claimed to speak for the Syrian people.

The U.N. mediator who will meet with each side tomorrow says both have shown some willingness to bend on humanitarian access and local cease-fires, and he hopes to build on that common ground.

%@AP Links

192-a-08-(U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in remarks)-"save their country"-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says negotations will be difficult, but an agreement must be reached. (22 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *192 (01/22/14)££ 00:08 "save their country"

191-a-12-(U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, in remarks)-"terrorist attacks, executions"-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says the violence in Syria has been a 'nightmare.' (22 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *191 (01/22/14)££ 00:12 "terrorist attacks, executions"

188-a-11-(Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks)-"to the opposition"-Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. will continue to work to remove Bashar Assad from power. (22 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *188 (01/22/14)££ 00:11 "to the opposition"

187-a-12-(Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks)-"a war crime"-Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost his legitimacy as a leader, since he used violence against his people. (22 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *187 (01/22/14)££ 00:12 "a war crime"

186-a-15-(Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks)-"the Syrian people"-Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is insisting that Bashar Assad step down. (22 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *186 (01/22/14)££ 00:15 "the Syrian people"

APPHOTO LON129: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon speaks at a press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting saying that the peace talks will face "formidable" challenges for Syria. Ban called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith. (AP Photo/Gary Cameron, Pool) (22 Jan 2014)

<<APPHOTO LON129 (01/22/14)££

APPHOTO LON127: US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures at a press conference during the Syrian peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting saying that the peace talks will face "formidable" challenges for Syria. Ban called on the Syrian government and the opposition trying to overthrow it to negotiate in good faith. (AP Photo/Gary Cameron, Pool) (22 Jan 2014)

<<APPHOTO LON127 (01/22/14)££

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