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Can the US and Russia save the UN cease-fire monitoring mission in Syria?

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It remains unclear if the meeting will take place, however, with Western powers including the United States less than enthusiastic about the gathering. The principle bone of contention is that Annan wants Iran, as one of a number of influential regional players in the Syria conflict, to attend. Others, led by the US, are dead set against the idea.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said inclusion of Iran in such a meeting would be a “red line” – a position that would be hard to walk back from – because of Iran’s overt support for President Assad in his violent crackdown on opposition forces.

Annan has suggested to officials from several countries that he wants the US and Russia, which is Assad’s most critical source of international support, to come to an agreement on the issue of Iran’s participation in a contact group. Secretary Clinton, who is traveling in Europe, plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Saint Petersburg Friday, but UN officials say Annan wants a resolution of the Iran dispute before then if the Geneva meeting is to go forward.

Annan last week defended his call for Iran to take part in a Syria contact group, saying the obvious fissures in the international community on dealing with the Syria crisis were leading to “destructive competition.”

Speaking to reporters in Geneva last week, Annan said, "I have made it quite clear that I believe Iran should be part of the solution. If we continue the way we are going and competing with each other,” he added, “it could lead to destructive competition and everyone will pay the price."

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