Middle East

Iran warns against arming Syrian rebels

Syrian National Coalition looks to EU to lift arms embargo as Syrian government meets preferred opposition in Tehran.
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2012 20:32
France has officially recognised the newly formed Syrian National Coalition [AFP]

Iran has warned against sending weapons to Syrian rebels, saying it will threaten regional stability and increase the "risk of terrorism."

The Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi said in a speech in Tehran on Sunday, as talks between Syrian officials and opposition groups tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad were taking place, that "some countries envisage arming the opposition with heavy and semi-heavy weaponry."

Salehi said such arms deliveries would set a "dangerous precedent" and constitute "a clear interference in the affairs of an independent country."

No National Coalition representatives were invited to the Iran talks.

His speech comes as EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the lifting of the arms embargo on arms deliveries to Syria.

Russia has also warned in the past that providing the coalition with weapons would be a "gross violation" of international law.

France has publicly said it favours sending "defensive" weapons to the Syrian opposition, after recognising the new Syriam National coalition by deciding to host an ambassador in Paris.

Syria has criticised the French decision as "hostile" as al-Asad forces continued their strikes on southern districts of the capital and across the country.

France on Saturday invited the group to send an envoy to Paris, after President Francois Hollande met National Coalition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.

The post of National Coalition envoy to France is to be filled by academic Monzer Makhous, although it was unclear if this would happen before a planned provisional government is formed.

"France is acting like a hostile nation," said the Syrian National Reconciliation Minister, Ali Haidar to the AFP news agency, while in Tehran.

"It's as if it wants to go back to the time of the occupation," he added of the French mandate in Syria after World War I.

The opposition coalition, formed in Doha on November 11, is committed to building a transitional government composed of representatives of all ethnic and religious groups in conflict-ridden Syria.

But it refuses to engage with the Damascus regime before al-Assad's departure.

Continued violence

On the ground, Israel said on Sunday that its artillery responded after gunfire from Syria hit an army vehicle but caused no casualties.

"Shots were fired at IDF (Israeli army) soldiers...in the central Golan Heights," an army spokeswoman told the AFP news agency, adding that the Syrian fire hit "a vehicle," but caused no injuries.

In Damascus government artillery bombarded the southern district of Al-Hajar al-Aswad, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based watchdog, which relies on a network of activists and medics in civilian and military hospitals to compile its tolls, said one civilian was killed and several wounded.

Aleppo and surrounding areas in the north also saw heavy combat, the Observatory said, reporting fierce clashes at regime Base 46 in the province, which has been besieged for weeks.

Artillery fire also hit the provinces of Daraa in the south and Deir Ezzor in the east, where rebels on Saturday said they had seized the key regime airport of Hamdan, a base for helicopter gunships.

The Observatory said at least two rebels were killed in a government ambush in the central province of Hama.

Sunday's fighting came a day after at least 142 people were killed nationwide, according to the Observatory, which has put the death toll in more than 20 months of conflict at 39,000.


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