UN welcomes Iran’s participation in Syria conference: Brahimi

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TEHRAN – The United Nations welcomes Iran’s participation in peace talks on Syria in Switzerland next month but negotiators have failed to reach an agreement on whether Iran should be invited, UN and Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said on Friday, Al Arabiya reported.

Brahimi said the delegations to the Geneva 2 conference have been agreed upon except for Iran. He said some 26 nations had been asked to join the conference.

The UN Syria envoy said the conference in Montreux will include Saudi Arabia, but the United States remains unconvinced that Iran’s participation “would be the right thing to do.”

“On Iran, we haven’t agreed yet. It’s no secret that we in the United Nations welcome the participation of Iran, but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran’s participation would be the right thing to do,” he said in remarks carried by AFP.

Tehran has said it would attend Geneva 2 if invited.

According to Reuters, Brahimi also said he would continue to work with Iranian officials if they were not officially invited. He said they had told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon it would not be the end of the world if they were not present, and they would continue to work with him on the sidelines.

Brahimi’s statements to reporters came after a Friday meeting with U.S. and Russian delegations to try to agree which nations should be invited.

The veteran mediator’s intensive shuttle diplomacy between Geneva, the Middle East and the capitals of world powers last month helped finally set Jan. 22 as the start date for talks.

Iran has said that the only viable solution to the Syrian conflict is the holding of free elections with the participation of all political groups.

A senior U.S. official said on Friday it was “difficult to imagine” Iran attending Syrian peace talks next month as it had not endorsed the June 2012 communique calling for a transitional government and was providing support to Damascus.

The official said talks would continue with Brahimi and other states on Iran’s participation in the peace talks, but there were many ways for Tehran to take part and this was only the beginning of the process.

State Department spokesman Jennifer Psaki said on Friday U.S. concerns about Iran participating in Syria talks are about “what the understanding is of participants, about what the goal of a Geneva conference would be. If they have a different goal, their participation does not seem particularly helpful,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.