U.N. envoy in Iraq: all states with Syria stake must join talks

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U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called for all countries with a stake in war-wracked Syria to participate in planned peace talks in Geneva, during a visit to Iraq on Monday.

“All those with interests and influence in the Syrian affair must participate in the meeting,” Brahimi said, when asked at a Baghdad news conference whether countries backing the opposition were welcome at the talks.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the news conference that “everyone is now convinced that (a) political and peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis is the available option” for “the interest of the Syrian people.”

The news conference followed talks between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Brahimi, who is on a regional tour to build support for the planned peace conference tentatively scheduled for next month.

“The arrival of military options at a dead end and the growing conviction of the need to reach a political solution to the crisis” have increased the odds of a successful push for peace, the Iraqi premier said in a statement.

Maliki added that Iraq is ready to support Brahimi’s efforts to broker a political solution "for all Syrians and the region."

Brahimi met with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo on Sunday, and is also planning to visit Iran, Qatar and Turkey as well as Syria during his regional tour.

The renewed push for peace talks comes after a rare U.S.-Russian accord compelled Syria to agree to destroy its chemical arsenal.

But the opposition has been fiercely critical of the agreement -- which averted US strikes on the regime following a sarin gas attack in August that killed hundreds of people -- and at least one major faction, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has already refused to go to Geneva.

Iraq has sought to publicly avoid taking sides in the civil war between Assad’s regime and rebels seeking to topple it, but the conflict has spilled over the border on several occasions.

The United States has repeatedly called on Iraq to stop flights it alleges are carrying arms from Iran to the Syrian regime through its airspace.

Iraq says Iran has reduced the number of flights transporting arms to Syria but has said Baghdad cannot stop them completely.

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