France opposed to Iran attending Syria conference

AFP — May 18, 2013

France said Friday it is opposed to having Iran attend a peace conference on Syria despite Damascus’s ally Russia wanting Tehran’s presence at the event expected in the first half of June.

Foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said: “We do not want Iran. The Syrian crisis is contagious and affects the entire zone. Regional stability is at stake and we cannot see how a country (Iran) that threatens this stability can participate in this conference.”

The new talks are meant to include both the fiercest rebels and members of the regime — a difficulty considering some opposition members’ refusal to recognise President Bashar al-Assad as a negotiating partner.

Moscow is also calling for the inclusion on this occasion of its trading partner Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia as a counterweight.

The Geneva talks were agreed during a May 7 visit to Moscow by US Secretary of State John Kerry and are seen as a rare joint peace push by the two former Cold War rivals some 26 months into the Syrian war.

But US President Barack Obama admits that mistrust lingers between Moscow and Washington and the world community remains particularly concerned by Russia’s arms deliveries to its longstanding ally Assad.

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