U.N. envoy talks with Iran about Syria, plans visit: official

Lakhdar Brahimi after addressing the U.N. General Assembly on September 4, 2012 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

TEHRAN: The new U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has spoken by telephone with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and is contemplating a trip to Tehran, an Iranian official told the Mehr news agency Sunday.

Brahimi, who is embarking on his first Middle East tour since taking over the position last week from Kofi Annan, spoke with Salehi late Saturday, one of Iran's deputy foreign ministers, Abbas Araqchi, was quoted as saying.

"It is planned for him to come to Iran at a suitable time after going to Syria," Araqchi said. He did not give any further indication as to a date for the visit.

A foreign ministry statement posted online said Salehi congratulated Brahimi on his appointment "and wished him success in his task."

The two discussed the situation in Syria and Salehi emphasised that his country wanted a "peaceful solution without foreign intervention," the statement said.

Brahimi was quoted talking about the "positive role" Iran could play in the Syrian crisis and his quest for a peaceful solution.

Brahimi took up his post on September 1, succeeding Annan, who stepped down in frustration at open dissent within the U.N. Security Council on how to tackle Syria.

He is due to visit Egypt on Sunday for talks with Arab League leaders ahead of a trip he hopes to make to Damascus, according to his spokesman.

The new envoy, a former Algerian foreign minister, said before taking up his post he was not confident of being able to restore peace.

Iran is the strongest ally of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It has been extending much support to Damascus, but denies U.S. and Syrian opposition claims that it has been sending weapons and military personnel.

Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready to help with international efforts to bring about peace, but has ruled out any solution that would require Assad to first step down.

It accuses the United States, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar of fomenting and supporting the rebels in Syria in a bid to topple a regime Iran considers a key link in its Shiite-dominated "axis of resistance" against Israel.

The 18-month Syrian conflict has turned increasingly vicious, with Brahimi and other officials viewing it as a civil war.

The United States, which is supplying what it describes as "non-lethal" assistance to Syria's opposition, is butting head with Russia over what course to take to bring about an end to hostilities in Syria.

If Russia continues to block U.S. efforts in the U.N. Security Council to punish Syrian non-compliance in a peace plan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday her country would work with "like-minded states to support a Syrian opposition to hasten the day when Assad falls."





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