Syria talks deadlocked over transferring power from Assad regime

GENEVA (AFP) - Syrian peace talks in Geneva were deadlocked on Monday over the explosive issue of transferring power from President Bashar al-Assad's regime, delegates from the warring sides said.

But both parties said they were not planning to walk away from the talks, even though a session on Monday had broken up with no progress after the regime set out a statement of principles. The opposition rejected the regime's statement, saying talks needed to focus on a political transition, and UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi ended the session.

"The discussions were not constructive today because of the regime's strategy to deflect... (and) change the subject by talking of terrorism," Ms Rima Fleihan, a member of the opposition National Coalition's delegation, told reporters.

Regime delegation member Buthaina Shaaban said the opposition had rejected discussion of anything other than the creation of a transitional government. She said the government had presented a statement of "political principles which we thought no two Syrian persons should disagree with" - including protecting the country's sovereignty, preserving state institutions and stopping the threat from "terrorist" groups.

"We were surprised that this basic paper was rejected by the other side, who either does not have the capacity to acknowledge Syria and its territorial integrity, or they don't care about what's happening to the Syrian people," Ms Shaaban said.

Asked if they were planning to leave the talks, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said: "Never! We shall not leave the table." Ms Fleihan also said there were no plans for the opposition to leave.

Monday marked the third day of UN-sponsored talks between the two sides in Geneva and the first dealing with political issues. The two sides have been brought together in the biggest diplomatic push yet to end a civil war that has left more than 130,000 dead and forced millions from their homes.

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