Syria slams 'hostile' French offer to host coalition envoy
TEHRAN - Agence France Presse
France's President Francois Hollande (3rd L) poses with the new Syrian National Coalition head Mouaz al-Khatib (4th L), Riad Seif (L), Suheir Atassi (2nd L) and France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (R) before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris November 17, 2012. REUTERS PhotoDamascus deems hostile a decision by France to host an ambassador from the newly formed Syrian opposition National Coalition, a Syrian minister said in key regional ally Iran today.
"France is acting like a hostile nation," Ali Haidar, minister for national reconciliation, told AFP.
"It's as if it wants to go back to the time of the occupation," he added, referring to the French mandate in Syria after World War I.
Haidar is in Tehran for Iran-backed talks between Syrian government officials and representatives of opposition parties tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
France "seeks to speak on behalf of the Syrian people, but our people do not attach any importance to this action," Haidar said.
French President Francois Hollande announced on Saturday that he would allow the Syrian opposition's National Coalition to appoint an ambassador to Paris.
The coalition, formed in Doha on November 11, is committed to building a transitional government composed of representatives of all ethnic and religious groups in conflict-ridden Syria.
It refuses to engage with the Damascus regime before Assad's departure.
On Sunday, Haidar confirmed that no coalition representatives had been invited to the Tehran talks.
"Invitations were extended to all those who accept dialogue, not to those who refuse to talk as a matter of principle," he said.
Rebels in Syria, termed terrorists or armed opposition groups by the Damascus government, reject any Iranian involvement in finding a solution to the crisis that has now lasted more than 20 deadly months.
They say Tehran has been discredited because of its unwavering support for Assad, a view shared by the United States and other Western and Arab countries.
Iran, in turn, accuses Western and Arab nations of arming the rebels in the conflict which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says has killed more than 39,000 people since mid-March last year.