Iran offers to host Syria talks
(CNN) — Iran has offered to host talks between Syria’s government and opposition in Tehran, its foreign minister said Sunday.
“Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says the Islamic Republic is prepared to facilitate talks between the Syrian government and opposition by hosting a meeting between the two sides in Tehran,” state-run Press TV reported.
Salehi told reporters Iran will invite dissidents “in a bid to prepare and facilitate the ground for talks between the Syrian dissidents and government,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Salehi emphasized that Iran supports the six-point plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria.
The peace plan by Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, has failed to bring about a halt to the bloodshed. Annan told the U.N. Security Council last week he needed the threat of consequences to win more cooperation inside Syria.
The bloody crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad on the Syrian opposition, which has been ongoing for 16 months, has sparked international outrage. However, al-Assad still enjoys the support of allies including Russia, China and Iran.
Britain last week introduced a new U.N. Security Council resolution threatening “immediate measures” if the Syrian government fails to comply with Annan’s peace plan.
Russia and China, which are permanent U.N. Security Council members, oppose putting such pressure on the al-Assad regime. Russia has proposed its own draft urging all parties to cease violence and calling for an extension of the U.N. observer mission in Syria for three months.
Annan, Salehi said on Sunday, “has treated the issue without bias and objectively and this has caused some regional countries to express concern, which is unfortunate,” Press TV reported.
Ramin Mehman-Parast, spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said Saturday that Iran was ready to help resolve the crisis through dialogue, Fars news reported.
The United States and other nations oppose Iranian participation in the diplomacy.
“Iran is definitely part of the problem in Syria,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said. “It is supporting, aiding and abetting the Assad regime materially and in many other ways, and it has shown no readiness to contribute constructively.”
On Saturday, Mehman-Parast criticized “certain regional countries (who) believe that by arming the rebels, they can solve the Syrian crisis,” Fars said.
“Instead of fueling conflicts and pushing Syria towards a civil war, these countries should use their influence to create a climate of dialogue between the government and the opposition,” he said.