|Annan urges U.S. lawmakers to give diplomacy with Iran a chance||
TEHRAN – Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said on Friday that Iran had an essential role to play in guaranteeing stability in the Middle East and urged U.S. lawmakers to give a diplomatic detente with Tehran a chance, Reuters reported.
Annan’s successor as UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, this week issued and then withdrew an invitation to Iran to join international peace talks on Syria in Switzerland.
“If we are going to have peace and stability in the Middle East, it is essential that Iran plays its natural role in the region,” Annan, who served as UN-Arab League envoy to Syria for five months in 2012, told Reuters in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Western powers led by the United States co-sponsoring the peace talks insisted that Iran could only sit at the table if it accepted a plan for a transition of power in Syria agreed in 2012, something it has declined to do.
However, since Hassan Rouhani became president last year, Iran has engaged with global powers over its nuclear program.
It has agreed to short-term constraints on the program in return for an easing of sanctions, raising hopes of an end to a standoff that has lasted a decade.
“The Iranians have their own hardliners who are not convinced this (rapprochement) is the way to go,” Annan said. “And Washington has its own hardliners who do not believe this is the way to go and are even talking about imposing fresh sanctions in the middle of the (nuclear) negotiations process.
“It would lead to a division between Europe and the U.S. I would urge my friends in Washington to think through this before they push ahead,” he said. “They should give diplomacy, negotiation and peace a chance.”
Annan to visit Iran
Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday that Annan is scheduled to travel to Iran in the near future.
In his visit to Iran, Annan will be accompanied by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu, and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo.
Ahtisaari is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work.
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