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Iran minister says will continue talks with Syria opposition

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday that Tehran would continue talks with the Syrian opposition following a preliminary meeting at the weekend.

"We had 45 (minutes) to an hour discussion which was very fruitful... and we committed ourselves to continue this discussion," Salehi told a foreign-policy think tank in Berlin after meeting Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib at a security conference in the southern German city of Munich.

Saleh on Sunday called the talks with Khatib a "very good meeting" and "a good step forward".

They were the first between the Iranian foreign minister and Khatib, who became Syrian National Coalition leader late last year and who also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Vice President Joe Biden in Munich on Saturday.

Khatib had reiterated at the start of the conference an earlier surprise announcement that he was ready for dialogue with the Damascus regime -- subject to conditions, including the release of 160,000 detainees.

The idea of direct talks has however already been rejected by the Syrian National Council, the main body in the coalition, which opposes any negotiations before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's departure.

Salehi said that his country was "ready to be part of a solution" in Syria.

Syria ally Iran has backed Assad's accusation that the nearly two-year-old uprising against his regime is politically, financially and militarily backed by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Salehi said the opposition and government in Syria needed to be able to sit down for talks and that he had stressed to Khatib the need for the two sides to meet and organise presidential elections.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130204/iran-minister-says-will-continue-talks-with-syria-opposition