Syrian rebels urge boycott of any conference involving Iran

AFP , Wednesday 25 Sep 2013

Free Syrian Army officers reject inclusion of Iran at any Syrian peace conference

More than 100 senior officers of the Free Syrian Army have signed a petition urging a boycott of any peace conference on their country if Iran is involved, an opposition general said Wednesday.

The statement "condemned once more the criminal regime of Al-Assad and any conference which will open any path other than the toppling of the regime."

It accused Tehran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, of being a "serious part of the problem," and added that it "should not be involved in any way in any conference on Syria."

The officers sought a "boycott of any conference or discussion which involves Iran in one way or the other."

The statement came after French President Francois Hollande, who has demanded "coercive" UN measures against Syria if it does not hand over its chemical weapons, said Iran was welcome to attend an international peace initiative on Syria, dubbed Geneva-2, if it helped in a political transition in Syria.

"I want to emphasise that anyone who will accept and request the presence of Iran in such a conference will be considered as an enemy of the Syrian people," said Methkal Albatich, a general in the Free Syrian Army.

"How could we accept the participation of a country directly involved in killing us?" he said.

"More than 140 countries and organisations are involved in the Friends of Syria conferences. All of them combined, their help is less than what Iran alone provides for Al-Assad," he said.

The general also said there were several foreign fighters fomenting dissent among the opposition fighters but they did not pose a real threat as they were few in number.

"Some of these extremists come from Chechnya or from Iraq. They say they come to help the Syrian revolution, but they have another agenda. Their numbers are very few, but the Al-Assad regime has a political interest to make the world believe they are many.

"They are not a threat: after Al-Assad falls, we will take care of them in two days. But first, we have to focus on Al-Assad," he added.

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