Matthew Lee – Associated Press June 26, 2012
United Nations envoy Kofi Annan has proposed inviting Iran to a multinational meeting to discuss a political transition in Syria this week, but is leaving it up to the U.S. and Russia to decide whether Iran can participate, U.S. officials said Monday.
Annan wants an “understanding’’ between Washington and Moscow on Iran, other potential guests and the agenda, officials said, before he issues formal invitations to the meeting of an “Action Group on Syria’’ that he wants to convene in Geneva on Saturday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the diplomacy.
The U.S. is adamantly opposed to Iran taking part, while Russia supports its inclusion. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham 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.
Annan has now said that Iran would be part of an “optimum’’ roster for the meeting, according to the officials, who said 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.
In addition to Iran, the officials said Annan has 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.
It was not clear on Monday what the final invitation list would look like or whether the planned conference would proceed as planned on June 30.