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France rules out Iran taking part in Syrian peace talks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By John Irish

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - France's foreign minister on Saturday ruled out Iran taking part in a proposed Syria peace conference, saying Tehran was involved in the conflict and had no desire for peace.

Laurent Fabius will host Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a dinner on Monday to discuss how to nudge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition into the talks in Geneva.

Speaking aboard a French aircraft en route to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Fabius said there was no "magic wand" to get warring parties to the negotiating table even though it appeared Assad's government had agreed to attend.

Russia has said Iran must be included in the peace conference, which was jointly proposed by Moscow and Washington and could convene in the next few weeks.

But Fabius said Iran's presence in Syria through its officers who were "directing operations" and through its Hezbollah proxy demonstrated that it had no place at the negotiating table.

"Yes the Russians want Iran to take part in Geneva, but we're opposed because Iran is not after a political solution and on the contrary has thrown itself directly into that battle."

Iran has denied it has forces in Syria supporting Assad's army, saying the accusations were invented by the "true enemies of Syria".

Fabius also said that with complex negotiations coming up later in the year between major powers that include France, U.S. and Russia over Iran's nuclear program, allowing Iran to take part in the Syrian conference would complicate those talks.

The United States and European Union have so far shied away from directly arming the rebels, but have given them "non-lethal" support, while Arab backers like Qatar and Saudi Arabia send them weapons.

Fabius is due to meet UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan for talks on Saturday. The crisis in Syria and Iran's nuclear program will top the agenda, given Gulf Arab states' accusations about Tehran meddling in their affairs by stoking unrest.

(Editing by Pravin Char)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130525/france-rules-out-iran-taking-part-syrian-peace-talks