Middle East

Iran says attending regional meet on Syria in Cairo

TEHRAN: Iran said it was joining officials from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey for a four-way "contact group" meeting in Cairo looking at ways to calm the conflict in Syria.

An Iranian deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, had left Tehran for the Egyptian capital to take part in the meeting, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iran's Al-Alam Arabic-language broadcaster.

Egyptian officials in Cairo were not immediately available to confirm the meeting.

If confirmed, it would be the first such meeting of a "contact group" on Syria proposed by Egypt's new president, Mohammad Mursi, at an August summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia that suspended Syria's membership.

"Iran's participation in this meeting is within the framework of solving the Syrian crisis and to listening to the Egyptian proposal. Iran will use this opportunity to provide its views, in addition to those of the other countries to this group," Mehmanparast said.

The chairman of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, Aladin Borujerdi, was quoted by Al-Alam as saying that Iran wanted to see the contact group expanded to give it "better balance," suggesting Iraq.

Currently, Iran is the odd country out in the contact group, being a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime whereas the three other states back the Syrian opposition and have called for Assad's ouster.

The report of the contact group meeting in Cairo came as the newly appointed UN and Arab League peace envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was to meet Egyptian and League officials in the Egyptian capital before heading to Damascus.

More than 27,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict erupted in March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the death toll at 20,000.

Brahimi's mission begins with key U.N. Security Council members the United States and Russia split on how to tackle the conflict and as fighting rages, with dozens of people dying in Syria every day.





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