TEHRAN: Iran on Monday condemned the killings in the Syrian town of Houla, blaming them on "terrorist actions" rather than its Damascus ally and calling for the perpetrators to be punished.
Iran "condemns the terrorist actions in the Houla area in Homs in Syria. The killing of a number of innocent people in the area has distressed the Islamic nations," the foreign ministry said in a statement relayed by official media.
It denounced the "suspect act" and urged authorities "to identify and punish those responsible."
Iran's statement followed strong condemnation on Sunday by the U.N. Security Council of a massacre, confirmed by U.N. observers in Syria, of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, in Houla.
The Security Council text implicated the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the killings "involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood," and called "such outrageous use of force" against civilians a violation of international law.
Iran's arch-foe Israel charged that Iran and its Lebanese militia ally Hezbollah were "an inseparable part of the Syrian atrocities" and called for international action against them.
The statement by Iran's foreign ministry implicitly rejected that accusation and appeared to place the blame for the Houla massacre on Syrian rebels, which Damascus has characterized as "terrorists".
Syria is Iran's chief ally in the Middle East, and Iran has been providing political and material support to Assad's government as it fights the rebels. Tehran, however, has denied U.S. allegations that it is providing Assad's forces with weapons and military advisers.
The United Nations says more than 10,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict since it started 15 months ago. Syrian activists put the toll at more than 13,000.