|Geneva peace talks collapsing, Syrian delegation threatens to quit||
Syria's first peace talks were on the verge of collapsing on Friday before they began, with the opposition refusing to meet President Bashar al-Assad's delegation and the government threatening to bring its team home.
The opposition said it would not meet Assad's delegation unless it first agreed to sign up to a protocol calling for a transitional administration. The government rejected the demand outright and said its negotiators would return home unless serious talks began within a day.
"If no serious work sessions are held by (Saturday), the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva due to the other side's lack of seriousness or preparedness," Syrian state television quoted Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem as saying.
Friday was meant to be the first time in three years of war that Assad's government and foes would negotiate face to face.
But plans were ditched at the last minute after the opposition said the government delegation must first sign up to a 2012 protocol, known as Geneva 1, that calls for an interim government to oversee a transition to a new political order.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told reporters the opposition was obstructing the talks.
"The problem is that these people do not want to make peace; they are coming here with pre-conditions," he told reporters, according to AFP.
"Of course we are ready to sit in the same room. Why are we coming here then," he asked.
Syria's Information Minister Omran Zoabi rejected the demand for the establishment of a transitional governing body.
"No, we will not accept it," Zoabi told Reuters on Friday.
The government delegation met UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi separately, and said it rejected the opposition demand: "No, we will not accept it," Information Minister Omran Zoabi told Reuters.
Syria's civil war has already killed at least 130,000 people, driven up to a third of the country's 22 million people from their homes and made half dependent on aid, including hundreds of thousands cut off by fighting.
Among the hurdles to progress, the terrorists who control most rebel-held territory are boycotting the talks and say anyone attending negotiations that fail to bring down Assad would be traitors.
Iran is also not represented at the Geneva talks. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Tehran at the last minute, but then withdrew the invitation 24 hours later.
During Wednesday's opening ceremony, the government delegation drew a rebuke from Ban for using inflammatory language after referring in a speech to rebels raping dead women, ripping fetuses from the womb and eating human organs.
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