Syria says will leave talks if no 'serious sessions' before Saturday

BEIRUT Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:22am EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem was quoted by state television on Friday as telling international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi that if no serious work sessions were held by Saturday, the government delegation would leave.

Brahimi and a Syrian government delegation met on Friday at the United Nations in Geneva, a witness said, and the mediator is due to meet the Syrian opposition delegation later on Friday. State television said the meeting was characterized by a "positive atmosphere".

"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," state television quoted Moualem as saying, citing a U.N. source.

State television quoted Brahimi as describing "the meeting today as half a step and tomorrow it will be a full step". It was not immediately possible to verify the quote with the mediator or his team.

Diplomats say Brahimi had planned to bring the government and opposition delegations together for a joint meeting to start a negotiating process aimed at resolving nearly three years of conflict in Syria. But the meetings on Friday have been held separately.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin and Erika Solomon; Editing by Alison Williams)

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