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U.S. envoy to U.N. says 'we need to get Iran' out of Syria

By Michelle Nichols

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States supports the U.N.-led Syria peace talks, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday, saying Syria could no longer be a "safe haven for terrorists" and that it was important "we get Iran and their proxies out."

Haley spoke to reporters after U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on 10 days of talks between the warring parties in Geneva, which ended last week.

She did not respond to questions on whether the United States believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down.

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All eyes have been on how Washington would approach ending the six-year war in Syria, given pledges by President Donald Trump to build closer ties with Russia, especially in the fight against Islamic State. Trump's Syria policy has been unclear.

"The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he's doing, we support the U.N. process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue," Haley said.

"This is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we've got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we've got to make sure that, as we move forward, we're securing the borders for our allies as well," she said.

Iran is backing fighters in Syria from Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah.

A crackdown by Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war and Islamic State militants have used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria's 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.

De Mistura told reporters after briefing the council that he planned to convene another round of peace talks on March 23.

He said the most recent round ended with an agenda and a timeline and "some agreement even on substance."

"We did not expect miracles and frankly we did not have miracles, but we achieved much more than many people had imagined we could have. No one left, everybody stayed," de Mistura told reporters.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney)