Iran reaffirms support for Syria´s Assad; U.S. warns of proxy war (LA TIMES) By Patrick J. McDonnell BEIRUT, LEBANON 08/08/12)
LOS ANGELES TIMES
LOS ANGELES TIMES Articles-Index-Top
Iran´s security chief, Saeed Jalili, meets with Bashar Assad in
Syria. Hillary Rodham Clinton warns outsiders against sending in
BEIRUT ó Iran´stop security official on Tuesday reaffirmed
Tehran´ssupport for Syrian President Bashar Assad as the United
States warned of a potential proxy war in Syria and an influx of
terrorists to the strife-torn nation.
Iran´s security chief, Saeed Jalili, met in Damascus with Assad, who
appeared on state television for the first time in two weeks. His
absence had spurred rumors that Assad may have left the Syrian
capital amid soaring violence and after a bombing last month killed
four of his top aides.
Assad told the Iranian official that "foreign powers" were
supplying "terrorists" with weapons, a clear reference to U.S. allies
such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which have provided aid to
rebels seeking to overthrow Assad´s government.
On a visit to South Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton was also warning about terrorist infiltration of Syria and
interference by outsiders.
"Those who are attempting to exploit the misery of the Syrian people,
whether by sending in proxies or sending in terrorist fighters, must
recognize that that will not be tolerated," the top U.S. diplomat
Clinton did not specify what nations or groups were fomenting strife
in Syria. Later, a State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, also
did not offer details when asked about Clinton´s comments.
"We´re talking about the type of extremists and terrorists that would
throw further fuel on the fire and kill more innocent Syrians,"
Ventrell told reporters in Washington.
Western officials have expressed concern about an influx of Islamic
militants to fight alongside Western-backed rebels seeking to oust
Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, both staunch supporters of
Assad, have consistently denied providing any military assistance to
the Syrian government.
However, rebels in Syria have long accused Iran and Hezbollah of
providing aid to Assad.
The United States has publicly assailed what it calls
Tehran´s "destructive behavior" in Syria.
Over the weekend, a rebel brigade said that 48 Iranians captured
Saturday by insurgents near Damascus were militiamen on
a "reconnaissance mission." The rebels threatened to execute the
Iran says the captives are religious pilgrims, and it has demanded
On Tuesday, Iran called on the United States and other nations
backing the Syrian opposition to use their influence to win the
freedom of the Iranians.
"Kidnapping innocent people is not acceptable anywhere in the world,"
Jalili, who is also Iran´s top nuclear negotiator, said in Damascus.
His visit to Syria appeared to be part of a diplomatic offensive by
Tehran aimed at freeing the captives.
U.S. officials don´t know who the captured Iranians are, State
Department spokesman Ventrell said.
It is unclear whether the Syrian rebel group has made any demands in
exchange for the release of the Iranians. A posting on a rebel social
media site indicated that three of the captives were killed this week
in government shelling, but that report remained unconfirmed.
In another effort to help secure the release of the captives, Iranian
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived Tuesday in Ankara, Turkey,
for talks with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu. Iran is
seeking help from Turkey and Qatar, major backers of the Syrian
opposition. Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran
contributed to this report. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY