Annan calls for Iran's help in solving Syrian crisis


UN PEACE envoy Kofi Annan waded into big power politics yesterday, insisting regional heavyweight Iran should be involved in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.

This is despite the west’s firm rejection of a role for Tehran. The United States and its Nato and Gulf Arab allies are opposed to involving the Islamic republic, which strongly backs Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and is regarded as its main adversary in the Middle East.

“Iran has a role to play and my presence here explains that I believe in that,” Mr Annan said after talks in Tehran with foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

“I have received encouragement and co-operation with the minister and the [Iranian] government.”

The former UN secretary general said Iran had made it clear that if the crisis got “out of hand and spread to the region, it could lead to consequences that none of us can imagine”.

Russia, which along with China opposes any external move to tip the balance against Mr Assad, has said Iran should be involved.

Moscow yesterday suggested hosting regular meetings of an “action group” that would include the Syrian opposition.

Following talks in Damascus on Monday, Mr Annan said Mr Assad had suggested ending Syria’s conflict on a step-by-step basis, starting with districts that have suffered the worst violence.

An activist group tracking the violence said more than 17,000 people had been killed, including 4,380 soldiers and police. At least 100 more were killed on Monday, in what has become an “average” day of horrendous bloodshed.

After his talks in Tehran, Mr Annan met Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

Mr Assad and Mr Maliki both have close relations with Iran, a Shia Muslim power vying with Sunni Gulf Arab states for more regional influence.

Mr Annan underlined the risk of the conflict “spilling over” to neighbouring states and noted that the mandate of UN monitors in Syria expires on July 21st. – (Reuters)