Jan. 21 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regrets the retraction of an invitation to Iran for Syria conference. Tehran says they are disappointed. Michaela Cabrera reports.
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Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said it was a mistake for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to withdraw an invitation to Iran, for a peace conference on Syria.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV, SAYING:
"This is of course a mistake. I've already said it before. But there has been no catastrophe. It is in any case just a one-day event, tomorrow on January 22, that about 40 foreign ministers are invited to - from different countries, including some far-flung regions like Latin America and East Asia. And of course, despite the largely ceremonial character of this event, the absence of Iran in this list of 40 countries raises all sorts of questions."
Ban withdrew the invitation from Iran to the Geneva-2 talks, after Tehran declared that it does not support a deal calling for a transitional government in Syria.
Lavrov said the Syrian opposition held the talks hostage by saying they would not attend if the Iranians were present.
A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said they had never requested to participate in the talks. And though they were prepared to help resolve the Syrian crisis, they would not accept any preconditions.
(SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN, MARZIEH AFKHAM, SAYING:
"So the withdrawal of this invitation is disappointing from our point of view and the fact that the secretary general - under some pressure - made a shift in this action, that was in fact his own initiative, is regrettable for us too and we hope and expect him to be able to state the real reasons for rescinding this invitation."
The conference in Switzerland aims to provide a starting point to easing a conflict that has killed over 130,000 Syrians.