UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced to reporters in New York on January 19 that Iran had been invited to the Geneva II peace conference, a conference between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders, meant to transfer power from Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad (shown with wife), to a transitional government. As a condition for the invitation, Iran has agreed to support the full implementation of the Geneva communique, including the establishment of the transitional governing body, overturning Iran’s Syrian ally.

The Washington Post reported that conflicting statements were made both by an Iranian official, who said Iran had not agreed to the terms, and by Assad, who indicated in an interview with AFP that he considered himself to be a viable candidate for reelection.

AFP: After nearly three years of devastating war and the big challenge of reconstruction in the country, is it likely that you will not be a candidate for the presidency?

President Assad: This depends on two things: It depends on personal aspirations or a personal decision, on the one hand, and on public opinion in Syria, on the other. As far as I am concerned, I see no reason why I shouldn’t stand; as for Syrian public opinion, there is still around four months before the election date is announced. If in that time, there is public desire and a public opinion in favour of my candidacy, I will not hesitate for a second to run for election. In short, we can say that the chances for my candidacy are significant.

The Post reported that the Syrian Opposition Coalition (a coalition of opposition groups in the Syrian civil war founded in Doha, Qatar, in November 2012), which had voted on January 18 to attend the peace talks after eight months of debate, issued an ultimatum Sunday afternoon demanding that the UN rescind the invitation or the opposition will not attend the conference. One goal of the conference is to host the first direct talks between the government and the opposition since the Syrian civil war began three years ago.

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