Russia on Friday called the upcoming Geneva talks on Syria a "positive step" despite fears that the meeting might not go ahead because of disagreements and Moscow's anger at the absence of Iran.
"On the whole, we view the upcoming meeting in Geneva as a positive step in a search for a way to broaden and strengthen the basis of an international consensus," the Russian foreign ministry said in reference to Saturday's meeting.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is convening the meeting in Geneva to shore up his faltering peace plan, with invitations to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus other key regional players including Turkey.
The final guest list drew objections from Russia, which has repeatedly stressed that Iran should be part of the conference.
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"It took a lot of hard work to agree the list of the participants," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that Moscow could not overcome Washington's objections against Tehran's attendance.
"A decision the organiser and chairman of the meeting Kofi Annan had to resort to in these circumstances does not appear optimal in our view," it said.
It stressed that "important players" like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation would also be excluded from the crucial talks.
Moscow also said it still held on to the view that the Syrians themselves should decide the fate of their country, with no foreign mandate for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
It added that the upcoming meeting should agree mechanisms of a ceasefire and simultaneous troop withdrawal by government troops and the armed opposition so that "municipal authorities can attend to acute social problems of the population."