Iran says will attend Syria talks, rejects conditions

Iran will attend Syrian peace talks this week in Switzerland but without preconditions, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told the official IRNA news agency.

"Based on the official invitation, Iran will participate in this conference without any preconditions," 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 due to open on Wednesday.

Ban's invitation came after Tehran 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.

The Syrian opposition, meanwhile, threatened to pull out of the conference, leading Ban to announce that "intensive and urgent" talks were being held to resolve the crisis.

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.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani explained his country's resistance.

"We were not present at Geneva I, therefore by no means do we accept the Geneva I statement," he told Iran's ISNA news agency.

"A transitional government has two problems: first, it deprives the Syrian people from the right to choose, second, it means letting Syria fall into the hands of terrorists."

If Tehran 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.