Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called upon President Bashar al-Assad and rebels trying to unseat his regime to negotiate an end to the country’s nearly two-year-old conflict.

“We are seeking to halt fighting and violence raging there by bringing both the Syrian regime and opposition to sit together at the negotiating table,?? Ahmadinejad said. Iran, a staunch ally of Damascus, has repeatedly rejected international calls on al-Assad to step down.

“We are not taking sides in Syria. Our position backs negotiations and allows elections to be the judge,?? Ahmadinejad added. “The Syrian people are the ones to determine Syria’s future.??

Syria was at the centre of talks on Wednesday in Cairo between Ahmadinejad and his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts, Mohammed Morsi and Abdullah Gul.

Egypt and Turkey, vociferous critics of al-Assad, have repeatedly called on him to leave power. Iran said it backed a proposal by Syria’s opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib to negotiate with regime officials to end the conflict, which has claimed the lives of at least 60,000 people, according to UN estimates.

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