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The announcement came less than 24 hours after UN chief Ban surprised the US and others by inviting Iran to the Syria peace talks [AP]
|The UN secretary-general has withdrawn his invitation to Iran to join this week’s Syria peace talks, saying he is “deeply disappointed” by Iran’s statements on Monday.
A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon announced the withdrawal less than 24 hours after Ban surprised the US and others by saying he had invited Syria’s closest regional ally.
The withdrawn invitation came shortly after Iran’s UN ambassador declared the Islamic Republic wouldn’t join the Syria talks if required to accept 2012 Geneva roadmap.
“The statement today in Tehran by the foreign ministry spokesperson fell short by some measure of what the secretary-general expected to hear,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, adding that the UN has been in close contact with the US and Russians over the weekend.
Nesirky said senior Iranian officials had assured Ban that Iran understood the terms of his invitation.
“The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment,” Nesirky said.
“He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.”
The talks are set to begin Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux, with delegations from the United States, Russia and close to 40 other countries attending. Face-to-face negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents, the first since the three-year civil war began, start Friday in Geneva.
‘Return to focus’
But Ban’s announcement on Sunday night that Iran was invited to Montreux angered Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group, which over the weekend had announced it would join the talks after intense international pressure.
The United States said on Monday it was hopeful after the UN withdrew Iran’s invitation and that all parties could refocus their efforts to end the Syrian civil war.
“We are hopeful that, in the wake of today’s announcement, all parties can now return to focus on the task at hand, which is bringing an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and beginning a process toward a long overdue political transition,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Psaki said the purpose of the conference was to implement a 2012 plan to establish a political transition in Syria.
About 10,000 people are seeking shelter at the airport near the capital Bangui. [Reuters]
|UN officials are warning the Security Council that Central African Republic is on the brink of a catastrophe, with half the population made homeless since ethnic warfare broke out.
UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the council on Monday that about 2.2 million people throughout the country need assistance, about half the total population.
About half the people of Bangui have been driven from their homes, a total of about 513,000, he said. An estimated 100,000 people are seeking shelter at a makeshift camp at the airport near the capital.
The Central African Republic has been plunged into chaos as the country’s Christian majority seeks revenge against the Muslim rebels, who seized power in a coup in March. Fighting between Christian and Muslim militias intensified in December.
An attack on Bangui by the Christian militia calling itself the anti-Balaka on December 5 triggered heavy unrest in the capitol, Feltman said.
A report in late December by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported 600 deaths in Bangui in those attacks, and Feltman put the current total at “750 casualties” in the capital.
“The death toll outside Bangui is likely to be substantial,” he said. “Killings in Bangui and the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation,” Feltman said.
The UN Children’s Fund warned at the end of December, that children are being recruited into the militias, and verified the killings of at least 16 children since December 5, two of whom were beheaded.
In December the Security Council authorised a multinational African peacekeeping force, which is expected to increase its troop strength from about 2,500 to 3,500, to keep a lid on the violence. France sent in about 1,600 troops on December 9 to back them up.
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- Syrian rebels free UN Golan peacekeepers (jpost.com)
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