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Saturday, December 20, 2014, 10:47 p.m.
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Syrian government says terrorism, not talks, is priority

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 23, 2014 at 11:10 a.m.

GENEVA — 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.

On the day that the two sides were meeting separately with a U.N. mediator known for untangling diplomatic knots, their comments affirmed positions hardened by nearly three years of civil war. The goal of direct talks by Friday appeared distant at best.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, speaking after the tense opening day of a peace conference that has nearly fallen apart at every step, said his government's priority was to "to fight terrorism."

"This paves the way for the start of the political process and an internal Syrian dialogue without any foreign intervention," he said.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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