UN Invites Iran on Syrian Peace Talks

Iran-LeaderSyria’s political opposition said on Monday it will withdraw from international peace talks scheduled this week unless United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon retracts an invitation to Iran, President Bashar al-Assad’s main backer.

Washington, however, suggested it could support Iran’s participation if it explicitly declares its support for a June 2012 plan for a political transition that the United States says means Assad would have to step down.

“This is something Iran has never done publicly and something we have long made clear is required,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “”If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded.

Ban said earlier that he had invited Iran to attend the first day of talks on January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland and that Tehran had pledged to play a “positive and constructive role” if it was asked to participate.

Less than 48 hours since Syria’s main political opposition group in exile, the National Coalition, agreed to attend the talks, dubbed “Geneva 2,” it threatened to withdraw.

Iran has accepted the invitation by United Nations Secretary-General to attend talks due to start on Wednesday in Geneva aimed at ending Syria’s civil war a  student news agency reported.

“We have always rejected any precondition for attending the Geneva 2 meeting on Syria, based on the official invitation that we have received, Iran will attend the Geneva 2 without any preconditions.” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said..

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday he had spoken at length with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in recent days and that he believed Tehran supported for the Geneva 2012 plan for Syria talks.

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