Iran says will attend Syria talks, rejects preconditions

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran will attend Syrian peace talks this week in Switzerland but without preconditions, foreign ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham told the official IRNA news agency.

"Based on the official invitation, Iran will participate in this conference without any preconditions," Ms Afkham was quoted as saying.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sparked a furore Sunday by inviting Iran to the so-called Geneva II peace talks.

Mr Ban's invitation came after Teheran vowed to play a "very positive and constructive role" in efforts to end Syria's worsening three-year civil war that the UN says has claimed well over 100,000 lives. Iran is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Washington, London and Paris reacted immediately, saying Iran would have to clearly and publicly support the idea of a Syrian transitional government if it wanted to attend.

Western powers have so far opposed Iran's presence on the grounds that Tehran had not accepted an initial communique adopted by major powers in Geneva in June 2012 calling for the creation of an interim government.

Iran has strongly resisted pressure to accept the communique.

"The previous agreements which were in line with the interests of foreign powers and reactionary (groups) in the region cannot be the basis for the next negotiations," Fars news agency quoted Iran's top military commander Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri as saying.

If Teheran does attend, there will be 40 countries and a group of regional bodies at the opening meeting, the most intensive diplomatic effort yet to end the war that has caused more than 2.3 million people to flee Syria with some 6.5 million internally displaced.

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