Syria envoy Annan says Iran should play regional role

DAVOS, Switzerland- Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said on Friday that Iran had an essential role to play in guaranteeing stability in the Middle East and urged U.S. lawmakers to give a diplomatic detente with Tehran a chance.
Annan's successor as UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, this week issued and then withdrew an invitation to Iran to join international peace talks on Syria in Switzerland.
Shi'ite Muslim Iran is the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his civil war against a host of mainly Sunni rebel groups, and is locked in a wider battle for influence with Saudi Arabia, its long-standing Sunni Muslim regional rival.
"If we are going to have peace and stability in the Middle East, it is essential that Iran plays its natural role in the region," Annan, who served as UN/Arab League envoy to Syria for five months in 2012, told Reuters in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.