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Iran backs Assad as Syrian forces choke off Aleppo

posted 7 Aug 2012, 11:10 by Mpelembe   [ updated 7 Aug 2012, 11:11 ]

The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, pushes forward an Iranian peace initiative during a visit to Damascus.

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (AUGUST 7, 2012) (REUTERS) - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad won a pledge of support on Tuesday (August 7) from regional ally Iran as Saeed Jalili, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, made a visit to Damascus.

Jalili was quoted by Syrian television as saying Iran would not let its close partnership with the Syrian leadership to be shaken by what he termed "uprising or external foes".

At a later news conference, Jalili promoted an Iranian peace plan for the conflict with an immediate ceasefire.

"The basic point of the initiative is based on is an immediate ceasefire to re-establish a secure and stable Syria," Jalili said.

"We think that this Iranian initiative, which was put aside for a whole year, could be made to work so that all parties can adopt it. We think that the best solution to the Syrian crisis is to end the losses the Syrian people are suffering day after a day."

Iran has also expressed worry about the fate of more than 40 Iranians it says are religious pilgrims kidnapped by rebels from a bus in Damascus while visiting Shi'ite shrines.

Rebels say they suspect the captives were troops sent to help Assad.

A rebel spokesman in the Damascus area said on Monday (August 6) three of the Iranians had been killed by government shelling.

He initially said the rest would be executed if the shelling did not stop but later said they were being questioned.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will use all available tools in order to free those innocent Iranian hostages and assure they are safely returned to their country and beloved people. All parties which back those groups who commit such acts, whether financially or in the media, are considered partners of these shameful actions," Jalili said.

Jalili's visit coincided with that of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi visit to Turkey, who said he wanted to work with Ankara to resolve the crisis.