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Iran Rejects Preconditions To Attend Syria Peace Conference


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (right) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Damascus on January 15.
Iran says it won't take part in next week's international peace conference on Syria if preconditions are set for its participation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking on January 16 after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow.

Lavrov urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to invite Iran and Saudi Arabia to the January 22 conference, dubbed Geneva-2.

He said the participation of regional powers would help find a political solution to the nearly three-year-old conflict.

"We reaffirmed -- just as I have done recently in Paris during my meetings with [U.S. State Secretary] John Kerry and [UN and Arab League joint envoy for Syria] Lakhdar Brahimi -- Russia's position in favor of extending an invitation to the Geneva-2 conference for Iran as a neighbor state, as a country that is interested in having the Syrian crisis resolved by peaceful means, and as a country that bears influence over the Syrian affairs," Lavrov said.

"We proceed from the assumption that Iran in any case ought to and inevitably will be a part of comprehensive efforts aimed at resolving the Syrian problem."

The United States says Tehran can participate only if it agrees to earlier diplomatic agreements that any transitional government in Syria would not include President Bashar al-Assad or his close allies.

Zarif also met Russian President Vladimir Putin later on January 16. He is also meeting senior Kremlin officials.

Zarif met in Damascus on January 15 with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss next week's Geneva conference.

Interfax reports that a meeting between Zarif, Lavrov, and their Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, was also held.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and dpa