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Iran says it does not want U.S. at Syria talks in Astana

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran’s foreign minister said on Tuesday Tehran opposed a U.S. presence at peace talks on Syria in the Kazakh capital next week, after a decision by Russia and Turkey to invite Washington.

“We have not invited them, and we are against their presence,” Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.

The United States, which led failed efforts to launch peace talks last year, has not been involved in the latest diplomacy around the Syrian conflict.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking separately on Tuesday at a news conference broadcast live on state television, said: “Iran, Russia and Turkey managed to bring a ceasefire to Syria ... It shows these three powers have influence.

“The (Syrian) armed groups have accepted the invitation of these three countries and are going to Astana.”

Asked why the United States and Saudi Arabia had no direct role in the talks, Rouhani said: “Some countries are not attending the talks, and their role was destructive. They were helping the terrorists.”

Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful allies, and Turkey, pushed for the talks in Astana after Syrian government forces won a major victory in capturing eastern Aleppo late last year.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that Turkey and Russia had decided to invite the United States to the Astana discussions, which begin on Jan. 23.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday he thought it was right to invite the administration of Donald Trump, due to become U.S. president on Friday.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Andrew Roche