Iran conference calls for Syria dialogue
Published Thursday, August 9, 2012
An Iran-hosted international conference on the conflict in Syria got underway in Tehran on Thursday, Iranian state television said, showing images of representatives of nearly 30 countries.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the event, which included diplomats from countries such as Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Iran has a strong belief that the only solution to the crisis is through serious, all-encompassing national dialogue between the opposition, which has popular support, and the Syrian government to establish calm and security," Salehi said.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is opposed to any foreign interference and military intervention in resolving the Syrian crisis. Iran supports the efforts by the UN secretary general (Ban Ki-moon) in peacefully resolving the Syrian crisis," he added.
He said Iran had sent humanitarian aid to Syria to make up for international sanctions on Damascus that he said "are not in the interest of the Syrian people but have added to their suffering."
Excluded from the meeting were Western and Gulf Arab nations that Iran has accused of giving military backing to the bloody near 17-month insurgency seeking to oust Assad.
State media said the foreign ministers of Iraq, Pakistan and Zimbabwe were present, while lower-ranking diplomats, most of them ambassadors, represented the other nations.
Salehi listed those nations as: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Benin, Belarus, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Oman, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Venezuela.
Kuwait and Lebanon had said before the meeting they would not send representatives.
Iran is endeavoring to establish a ceasefire in Syria and start national dialogue between the Syrian opposition and government.
But Tehran is at the same time pledging to stick by Assad, whose forces are battling rebels.
A top aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Saeed Jalili, met Assad in Damascus on Tuesday to vow Tehran would not permit the bond between it and Assad's regime to be broken.
There was no immediate word from Syrian opposition groups and rebels on how they viewed the Tehran conference.
Iran's hasty organization of the meeting appeared to be an attempt to step into a diplomacy vacuum caused by the August 2 resignation of Kofi Annan as UN-Arab League peace envoy on the Syria crisis.
The frustrated former UN chief had said that "continuous finger-pointing and name-calling" within the UN Security Council had undermined his mission.
He also said he believed Assad would go "sooner or later."
Iran, which blamed Annan's departure on US support for Syria's rebels, said it was trying to revive parts of Annan's six-point peace plan.