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Tentative Step Forward in Syrian Peace Talks

The Syrian government and the opposition delegation attending peace talks in Geneva say they have agreed to use a 2012 "Geneva communique" as a basis for negotiations.

Both sides, on Wednesday, announced their willingness to use the document, although there is disagreement over the next step in talks.

One provision in the communique calls for the creation of a transitional governing body. Negotiators say the opposition wants to start talks by focusing on this provision while the government wants to address it near the end of talks.

The government wants to focus on "terrorism" first.

Still, opposition spokesman Louay Safi said it was a "positive step forward."

The talks are in a fifth day. The government and opposition delegation have been meeting with U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

In another development, Western news organizations say the Syrian government is buying oil and gas from al-Qaida-linked groups that have seized control of some of those resources in Syria.

The news organizations say militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and the al-Nusra Front have used proceeds from oil and gas sales to finance their operations. The news organizations quote unnamed Western officials.

The New York Times on Wednesday said opposition activists in Syria's oil region claimed militant groups were also providing fuel to the government in exchange for relief from air strikes.



Rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insist he must leave power, while the Syrian government has said Mr. Assad's role is not up for debate at the peace conference.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against the government before spiraling into a civil war that the U.N. says has killed well over 100,000 people and forced nearly 9 million from their homes.

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