Syria should recognise 'legitimate demands: Iran

The Syrian government should recognise the "legitimate demands" of its people, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, whose nation is the main ally of Damascus, was quoted as saying Saturday.

"The government should answer to the demands of its people, be it Syria, Yemen or other countries," the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

"The people of these nations have legitimate demands and the governments should reply to these demands as soon as possible," Salehi added.

"We have the same stance towards popular developments in the Middle East and North Africa. We believe that the developments in the region emanate from discontent and dissatisfaction in these countries," he said.

But he warned against about toppling the Syrian regime.

"A vacuum in the Syrian regime would have an unpredictable impact for the region and its neighbours," Salehi said, referring to calls by the United States and European leaders for Assad to step down.

Washington, the European Union and Syrian opposition groups have accused Tehran of helping Syrian security forces put down the uprising, a claim vehemently denied by Iran.

Salehi's comments came two days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to end months of deadly violence.

"The people and government of Syria must come together to reach an understanding," Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

Tehran has supported the protests in all Arab countries except Syria, its main Arab ally, where the Islamic republic backed the government of President Bashar al-Assad, asking him to implement some reforms.

At the same time, Iran has accused arch-foes Israel and the United States of trying to undermine Syria.

Syrians demonstrate in support of their President Bashar al-Assad in central Damascus on August 27, 2011

The protest in Syria, which began in mid-March, has left more than 2,200 people dead, according to the United Nations.

Salehi once again accused "foreigners" of interfering in the domestic affairs of the regional nations, including Syria.

"Syria is an important link in the resistance chain (against Israel) and some want to cut off this link in the chain," Salehi added.

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday called for a "peaceful resolution" in crisis-hit Syria, warning of regional fallout.

"All those who claim they are friends of Syria ... must step up efforts to help calm the situation in Syria and encourage dialogue and a peaceful resolution," he told a massive crowd in the southern village of Maroun al-Ras via video link.

"Anything else is dangerous for Syria, Palestine and the region," the Shiite leader said in a speech to mark "Quds Day", an annual Iranian-inspired event to show solidarity with Palestinians.

Maroun al-Ras was the scene of a May 15 shooting in which Israeli troops fired on thousands of Palestinian refugees marching towards the border with Israel, killing seven and injuring 111, according to the United Nations.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, a major ally of the Syrian regime as well as Hezbollah, on Wednesday also urged the Syrian regime and people to reach a peaceful "understanding".

Nasrallah, whose militant party fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006, accused the West, notably Washington, of aiming to turn Syria into "another Lebanon: confessionally divided ... and headed towards partition."

"Lebanon is not immune to the situation in Syria. Negative developments like positive developments will affect the entire region," warned Nasrallah.

The United Nations estimates Syrian security forces have killed more than 2,200 people since demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March.

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AFP

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