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GENEVA (AP) - Direct talks planned between President Bashar Assad’s government and the Western-backed opposition hoping to overthrow him were scrapped Friday, and the two sides will meet a U.N. mediator in different rooms at different times.

The separate meetings are a major setback for a peace conference that has been on the verge of collapse since it was first floated in 2012 as a path out of the civil war that began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad.

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi was meeting first with a government delegation and later Friday with representatives from the Syrian National Coalition, said U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci.

Bouthaina Shaaban, an advisor to Assad who traveled to Geneva for the talks, blamed the coalition and questioned whether it is prepared to negotiate an end to the violence.

“We came here with Syria and the Syrian people on our mind, only while they came here with positions and posts on their mind,” she said, minutes before her delegation drove into the U.N. offices for talks with Brahimi.


Ukraine protesters seize government ministry, continue to occupy several local administrations

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Protesters on Friday seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital while also maintaining their siege of several governors’ offices in the country’s west, raising the pressure on the government.

After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych for several hours late Thursday, opposition leaders told the crowds that he had promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police, and stop further detentions. They urged the protesters to maintain a shaky truce following violent street battles in the capital, but were booed by demonstrators eager to resume clashes with police.

The truce has held, but early Friday protesters broke into the downtown building of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy, meeting no resistance. “We need to keep people warm in the frost,” said one of the protesters, Andriy Moiseenko. “We cannot have people sleeping in tents all the time.”

The demonstrators allowed ministry workers to take their possessions, but wouldn’t allow them to go to work.

The move followed the seizure of local governors’ offices in several western regions on Thursday.


Attorneys for family of brain-dead Texas woman to ask that she be removed from life support

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Attorneys for a Fort Worth-area family will ask a judge Friday to allow a pregnant, brain-dead Texas woman to be removed from life support, despite hospital opposition.

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