Annan Wants Iran to be Part of Talks on Syria
The United Nations envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, has proposed inviting Iran to a multinational meeting to discuss a political transition in Syria this week, The Associated Press reported on Monday.
U.S. officials told AP that Annan is leaving it up to the U.S. and Russia to decide whether Iran can participate.
According to the officials, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, Annan wants an “understanding” between Washington and Moscow on Iran, other potential guests and the agenda before he issues formal invitations to the meeting of an "Action Group on Syria" that he wants to convene in Geneva on Saturday.
The U.S. is adamantly opposed to Iran taking part, the report noted, while Russia supports its inclusion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Iran's participation would be a "red line" for the United States because it has been overt in its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on the opposition.
Annan has previously said that Iran “should be part of the solution” to the Syria crisis but has been coy about whether he believes Iran's presence at the meeting is vital.
He has now said that Iran would be part of an “optimum” roster for the meeting, the officials told AP, adding the U.S. has not changed its position on the matter. However, the officials stressed that Annan also believed that a U.S.-Russia understanding is essential.
Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have discussed the matter and are due to meet again in person in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, but the officials said Annan wants an answer from the two countries by late Tuesday.
The officials said Annan has also proposed inviting the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. - along with Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Annan has also suggested that U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon, the Arab League secretary general and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton be invited.