UN withdraws Iran invitation to Syria talks

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Associated Press

Posted on January 20, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 20 at 7:04 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. secretary-general has withdrawn his invitation to Iran to join this week's Syria peace talks, saying he is "deeply disappointed" by Iran's statements Monday.

A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon announced the withdrawal less than 24 hours after Ban surprised the U.S. and others by saying he had invited Syria's closest regional ally.

The withdrawn invitation came shortly after Iran's U.N. ambassador declared the Islamic Republic wouldn't join the Syria talks if required to accept 2012 Geneva roadmap.

A spokesman for Ban, Martin Nesirky, says senior Iranian officials had assured Ban that Iran understood the terms of his invitation.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "urgently considering his options" in light of the "disappointing conduct of some participants" involved in the Syria peace talks after he invited Iran to attend, his spokesman said Monday.

Martin Nesirky told reporters Monday that Ban "is dismayed" at the developments after he announced the invitation Sunday.

Nesirky says Iran, despite assurances, "has made a disappointing public statement" that suggests Iran doesn't accept the terms of this week's peace talks in Switzerland.

Senior U.S. officials say the invitation must be withdrawn unless Iran fully and publicly endorses the formation of a transitional government for Syria that would pave the way for democratic elections.

Syria's main Western-backed opposition group says Iran must commit publicly by 1900 GMT to withdraw its "troops and militias" from Syria and abide by those terms, or the U.N. should withdraw the invitation.

"The statement today in Tehran by the foreign ministry spokesperson fell short by some measure of what the secretary-general expected to hear," Nesirky said, adding that the U.N. has been in close contact with the U.S. and Russians over the weekend.

He also denied Ban's invitation caught the U.S. by surprise, saying they were fully aware of the timing of the announcement.

Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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