The United Nations and Arab League's envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, said on Tuesday that Iran should be “part of the solution” to the Syrian conflict, after talks in Tehran with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali-Akbar Salehi.

The talks came as dozens of shells fired from Syria landed in northern Lebanon, where thousands of Syrians have sought refuge from the 16-month-long uprising, fuelling fears that the conflict may spill over into the neighbouring country.

“My presence here (in Tehran) proves that I believe Iran can play a positive role and should therefore be a part of the solution in the Syrian crisis,” Mr Annan told reporters at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mr Salehi.

Objections from the West

The United States and the European Union have objected to allowing Iran, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to play a role in resolving Syria’s 16-month long conflict. Mr Annan said that he could only speak for himself.

According to a UN source, Mr Annan believes that Iran’s involvement is essential to the defusing of the crisis, and that Tehran “can use its good offices with the Syrian leadership to reach a solution to end the violence.” The primary aim in Syria should be containing the violence, Mr Annan said, “collecting arms which are in the wrong hands” and putting a swift end to further militarisation.

He declined to give further details about his talks with Mr Assad on Monday, which he said afterwards had been “constructive.” He added only that the violence should stop in order to enable talks to begin between the conflicting sides.

Iran backs Assad

Mr Salehi praised the “just and impartial role” Mr Annan had so far played in the crisis, noting that “his stance and especially his demand to make Iran part of the solution to the Syrian crisis had made some countries angry.” Iran’s chief diplomat also reiterated his support for Mr Assad, saying he should be given the chance to implement his promised reforms.

“Mr al—Assad has already taken some constructive steps in this regard but some irrelevant interferences have so far prevented progress and have made the crisis continue,” Mr Salehi said.

“All relevant and involved sides should work together and not allow the situation to get worse ... we all have to be very careful as any wrong decisions could lead to a regional catastrophe,” he warned.

Mr. Annan was also to meet with Saeid Jalili, secretary of Iran’s National Security Council. It was unclear whether he would also meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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