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Regime charges Kerry with being disrespectful: Iran not invited to Syria confab.

US Secretary of State John Kerry last week vetoed any invitation to Iran to sit at the table for the upcoming Geneva conference on Syria, but said Iran could play a role "on the sidelines" of the conference if it wished.

In the United States, there was a loud outcry of criticism accusing Kerry of bowing to Tehran by letting it have any role in the conference.

But in Tehran, there was an even louder outcry of criticism as Iran rejected Kerry's offer and accused him of insulting Iran.

The reaction in the United States showed how little is understood about the Islamic Republic, for which a formal invitation to sit as an equal is extremely important. To Tehran, the offer to sit on the sidelines was seen as a conscious snub and a demeaning gesture by the Americans.

Invitations to the conference were approved last week by Washington and Moscow, the joint sponsors, and sent to about 30 countries. Both sponsors had to approve each name on the list. So, while Russia wants Iran at the table, American opposition struck Iran from the list.

The United States said no country would be invited unless it signed on to the product of the first conference on Syria, which called for a new, transitional government without President Bashar Al-Assad. The Islamic Republic has rejected that approach.

Kerry seemed to want to mollify Tehran. He said, "Everybody is happy to have Iran be helpful."

Kerry then mulled over possibilities. "Could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways, conceivably, to weigh in? Can their mission that is already in Geneva [assigned to UN European office] be there in order to help the process? It may be that there are ways that can happen."

It was the first time any US official has spoken on any Iranian role. And many Americans--chiefly Republicans--slammed Kerry for kowtowing to Tehran and opening a door to it.

But in Tehran, the regime saw no door opening. It saw Kerry slamming the door in the Islamic Republic's face.

Only hours after Kerry spoke, Marziyeh Afkham, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, dismissed the idea of working from the sidelines as demeaning. "The Islamic Republic of Iran will not accept any proposal that does not respect its dignity," she said firmly.

It might have been better if Kerry had just let the issue sit with the rejection of the invitation since almost everyone in Iran took his offer of participating from the "sidelines" as a gratuitous insult rather than an effort to mollify Iran.

The meeting is scheduled to open January 22, but many believe it will never get off the ground because the opposition to Assad is divided over attending.

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Title Annotation:U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jan 10, 2014
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