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Syrian govt, opposition face to face for 1st time at UN


U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi listens during a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. After three days of escalating rhetoric _ and a day spent assiduously avoiding contact within the United Nations _ the two sides will meet “in the same room,” said the U.N. mediator trying to forge an end to the civil war _ or at least a measure of common ground to stem a civil war that has left 130,000 people dead. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) (The Associated Press)

The first face to face meeting between Syria's government and the opposition hoping to overthrow Bashar Assad has started.

After tense days spent avoiding each other and meeting separately with a U.N. mediator, Assad's handpicked delegation and representatives of the Syrian National Coalition were gathering in the same room Saturday in hopes of ultimately finding a path out of the civil war.

The two sides were distant going into the meeting, with the Damascus delegation denying it had accepted the premise of a transitional leadership, and the opposition saying it would accept nothing less.

"We'll try our best to make it as successful as possible," said Anas al-Abdeh, a member of the Syrian National Coalition's negotiating team.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad said Saturday would focus on "modest ideas."