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89 Syrians killed as US, Russia seek to iron out differences
Sunday, February 03, 2013
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DAMASCUS: A senior Iranian security official visiting Damascus on Saturday pledged Tehran’s full support for the Syrian regime, its close ally, Syrian state television said.


“We will give all our support so that Syria remains firm and able to face all the arrogant (Western) conspiracies,” said Saeed Jalili, who heads the Supreme National Security Council.


“The Israeli aggression and arrogant international forces have tried to take revenge by attacking the resisting Syrian people,” said Jalili, who said Israel and the West had turned “desperate.”


Jalili was referring to Israeli air strike on Wednesday that a US official said hit a military complex and missiles near the Syrian capital.


The Syrian army said the raid, which the Jewish state has not confirmed or denied, targeted a military research centre located between Damascus and the Lebanese border.


On Thursday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned that the attack would “have grave consequences,” without elaborating.


Israel fears Syrian weapons could be sent to the powerful Lebanese group Hizbullah, a close ally of Damascus and Tehran.


Jalili said “the Arab and Muslim worlds must do all they can to diminish the Syrian people’s suffering because Syria is at the forefront of the struggle against Zionist aggression.”


In a separate statement carried by state news agency SANA, he criticised “Syria’s enemies who aim to undermine the attacking Syria’s infrastructure and by pursuing their economic sanctions.” “The Muslim world will not allow an attack against Syria,” Jalili warned.


Jalili, who last visited Damascus in August, met with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi and discussed “cooperation in the economic, fuel and electricity sectors”, SANA said.


Jalili also met on Saturday with national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar, and was due to also hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, Iranian officials in Damascus told AFP.


Jalili is Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and a close aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Iran has backed Assad’s accusation that the 22-month uprising against his regime is politically, financially and militarily backed by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Washington, in turn, has accused Iran of stepping up military aid to Syria.


Meanwhile, the US and Russia meet in Germany Saturday in a new bid to iron out their differences over the war in Syria, with the head of the opposition saying the world must not be a bystander to the tragedy.


On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, US Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib.


He is also due to see UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, the White House said, amid growing international fears of the 22-month conflict in Syria spilling over its borders and drawing in other regional states.


US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told AFP in an interview Washington is also concerned that “chaos” in Syria could allow Hezbollah to obtain sophisticated weaponry.


Outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tehran is stepping up its support for Assad’s regime and Russia is still arming it, heightening concerns after Damascus’s threat to retaliate over the reported Israeli raid.


“The worst kind of predictions of what could happen, both internally and spilling over the borders of Syria, are certainly within the realm of the possible now,” she said on Friday, her last day in office.


On the ground on Saturday, rebels were reported to have taken control of the Sheikh Said district of Aleppo, Syria’s second city, in a strategic victory securing a key route to its international airport.


The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, which relies on activists and medics on the ground for its information, said at least 89 people were killed on Saturday.