Iran wants in on Syria peace conference

AFP , Tuesday 21 May 2013

Iran voices interest in joining thorny US and Russia brokered peace conference on ending the Syrian conflict, citing its right to participate as an influential party

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks before Friday prayers in Tehran September 18, 2009 (Photo: Reuters)

Iran said Tuesday it is willing to attend an upcoming peace conference on Syria, arguing all influential parties must be included in the process for it to be a success.

"The condition for success in Geneva is that all countries with influence on events in Syria participate," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told reporters.

"I do not think anyone in the world doubts that one of those countries is the Islamic republic," he added.

The conference -- agreed by the United States and Russia and expected to be held in the first half of June -- seeks to bring together representatives from the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting it in a conflict that has reportedly killed more than 90,000 people since it began in March 2011.

Moscow, an ally of Damascus, has requested that Iran be included in the talks.

"We must not exclude such a country as Iran from this process due to geopolitical preferences. It is after all a very important outside player," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

His call was rejected by France, with its foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot saying: "We do not want Iran... Regional stability is at stake and we cannot see how a country (Iran) that threatens this stability can participate in this conference."

Iran, Assad's main regional ally, regards many Syrian opposition groups as "terrorists" backed by Western and Arab countries, but it urges talks to form a national reconciliation committee to end the conflict.

Iran did not attend the previous Geneva meeting on the Syrian crisis in June 2012, which called for an immediate ceasefire. The United States and France had objected to its participation.

Araqchi on Tuesday said the planned Geneva meeting nonetheless was proof Iran's position on dialogue in Syria was correct.

"From day one, we have said the only solution is dialogue between the government and the opposition," he said. "The fact that the international community is moving towards this position is a good thing."

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