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The U.N. annouced that Syria's government and opposition group will both meet for the first time in Geneva in January.  The talks willbe an attempt to halt the nearly three-year-old civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people. 

Previous attempts to bring the two sides together failed.  Mostly due to disputes over who should represent the government and opposition, the future role of President Bashar al-Assad, and whether Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers should have a role. 

The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, urged the government and opposition to end the violence. He said a key goal of the conference, scheduled for 22 January, is to establish a transitional government with powers over military and security.  "We go with a clear understanding: the Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria," Ban said at the UN's headquarters in New York.

The U.N. did not specify who will represent Syria's opposition, though many suspect it may be the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, who will be there as well.

Another issue yet resolved is the role of President Asad. Assad says he will not step down and may even run for another term in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2014. Recent battlefield victories have shifted the momentum of Syria's conflict in Assad's favour.





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