MOSCOW Iran said on Thursday it strongly opposed moves by its regional foe Saudi Arabia to allow "terrorists in a new mask" to sit down for talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Preparations for Syria peace talks, due in Geneva on Friday, have been beset by difficulties, including a dispute over who should be invited to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad's government as it claws back territory with help from Russia and Iran.
"Terrorists with a new mask should not sit down at a negotiating table with the representatives of the Syrian authorities," Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told a news conference during a visit to Russia.
"This is the most important condition."
The Syrian government, aided by Russian air strikes and allied militia including Iranian forces, is gaining ground against rebels in western Syria, this week capturing the town of Sheikh Maskin near the Jordanian border.
Amirabdollahian called on Saudi Arabia to stop its actions which he said increased tension in the Middle East. He said that Riyadh was trying to raise its influence at the Geneva talks by including "terrorists" in the opposition lists.
"We believe that Saudi Arabia's insistence on including recognizable terrorists ... in one list or another, is certainly not a constructive action on its part," he said.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Lidia Kelly)