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GENEVA — Syria's government handed an ultimatum to a U.N. mediator hoping to broker peace in the country's civil war, vowing to leave if "serious talks" do not begin by Saturday.

The Western-backed opposition, which agreed to the talks only under intense diplomatic pressure, said it was willing to be patient — but not yet willing to sit face-to-face with the government it wants to overthrow.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's delegation met for less than 90 minutes Friday in Geneva with U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, where Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told him if "serious talks don't begin Saturday, the official Syrian delegation will have to leave because the other party is not serious or ready," according to Syrian state television.

Direct talks planned for Friday between the Syrian government and the Syrian National Coalition were scrapped, and the opposition was to meet separately with Brahimi later.

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

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