Salehi: Iran is ready to host Syria crisis talks

Iranian foreign minister's statement appears to indicate a shift in the Tehran's approach to Assad.

Salehi 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Salehi 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran is ready to host talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying on Sunday, in an effort to bring an end to the conflict in the country.
The statement would appear to indicate a shift in the Iranian leadership's approach. Iran has consistently supported Syrian President Bashar Assad's efforts to suppress a 17-month-long uprising.
Iran has repeatedly accused Western and regional powers of meddling in Syria's internal affairs, and Salehi told Reuters last week that a "a good portion" of the Syrian rebels were from extremist militant groups.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to sit down with the Syrian opposition and invite them to Iran," the Iranian Students' News Agency quoted Salehi as saying. "We are ready to facilitate and provide the conditions for talks between the opposition and the government."
International mediator Kofi Annan said last week that Iran and Iraq supported a plan for a political transition in Damascus led by Syria.
Annan has emphasized the importance of Iran's involvement in finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, though Western powers have firmly rejected the suggestion.
A Kremlin statement said on Sunday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Kofi Annan in Moscow on Tuesday for talks on the conflict in Syria.
"During the course of the upcoming meeting, the plan is to ensure Russia's support for Annan's peace plan for the politico-democratic regulation of the crisis in Syria," the statement said.
"It is the Russian side's understanding that this plan is the only viable platform to the solution of Syria's internal problems."
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Syria denies Annan's 'rushed' accusations on Tremseh

Syria denied on Sunday accusations by Annan that state forces used heavy weapons or helicopters in clashes in the village of Tremseh last week, where activists said there was a massacre of over 100 people.
Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for Syria's Foreign Ministry, said security forces killed 37 fighters and two civilians in a campaign against the town, from which the government said rebels were launching attacks on other areas.
"Government forces did not use planes, or helicopters, or tanks or artillery. The heaviest weapon used was an RPG (rocket propelled grenade)," Makdissi told reporters at a news conference in Damascus.
"Yesterday we received a letter from Mr. Kofi Annan addressed to the Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. The least that can be said about this letter about what happened in Tremseh is that it did not rely on facts. As diplomatically as possible, we say that this letter was very rushed."