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Published: Thursday January 16, 2014 MYT 4:20:02 PM
Updated: Thursday January 16, 2014 MYT 4:21:00 PM

Iran wants to be at Syria talks but rejects conditions

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Damascus January 15, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Damascus January 15, 2014, in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Iran wants to take part in next week's international peace conference on Syria but will not attend if conditions are set for its participation, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.

The United States says Iranian delegates should be at the conference in Montreux, Switzerland, only if they are willing to accept an agreement reached at a June 2012 peace conference in Geneva calling for a transitional government body to be established in Damascus "by mutual consent".

Washington interprets that language as requiring President Bashar al-Assad's departure from power but Russia and Iran reject this interpretation.

"If the Islamic Republic of Iran is invited like all other participants in the conference, it will take part in this event," Zarif told a news conference after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

He added: "We do not accept any pre-conditions for our country's participation."

Lavrov urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to invite Iran and Saudi Arabia to the conference starting an January 22, saying the participation of regional powers would help find a political solution to the nearly three-year-old conflict.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Writing by Timothy Heritage, Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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