UN chief invites Iran to Geneva 2, Syria opposition threatens to withdraw

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Opposition National Coalition says it will withdraw from conference unless Ban withdraws his invitation to Iran.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to take part in preliminary Syrian peace talks this week in Switzerland, an offer Tehran has accepted.
Ban said he had received assurances that Iran would play a positive role in securing a transitional government.
Ban told reporters on Sunday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif understands the basis of the talks is setting up a transitional government in Syria. That goal was set out in a 2012 Geneva conference on Syria.
 
The U.N. chief says Zarif has pledged that Iran will play a positive and constructive role in the new talks.
 
Iran has so far rejected the Geneva One declaration because a transitional government in Syria  likely would exclude President Bashar al-Assad, a major Iranian ally.
 
But Ban said he is convinced Iran eventually will accept Geneva One.
Shortly afterwards, the Turkey-based National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces said it would withdraw from the conference unless Ban retracted his invitation.
The US also said the UN invitation should be withdrawn unless Iran publicly states its support for a 2012 agreement that establishes a transition government in Syria.
"If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communique, the invitation must be rescinded," Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Earlier on Sunday, the National Coalition met in Istanbul to appoint the members of a delegation heading to the peace conference.
 
Russia, another Syrian ally, has called for Iranian participation, while the United States has said Iran could participate from the sidelines.
 
The Geneva talks are scheduled to open Wednesday. Ban also has invited nine other nations that have an interest in the Syrian civil war to join the talks. He says their presence would be an important show of solidarity.
 
The U.N. chief also welcomed the main opposition group\’s decision to attend.
 
Syria says the issue of Assad giving up power is not up for discussion, so few experts expect the talks will reach this goal. But they say they do hope the discussions will result in increased humanitarian access and local cease-fires to make life easier for Syrian civilians.
The three-year conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.
An estimated two million people have fled the country and some 6.5 million have been internally displaced.
Source: Agencies

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