Middle East

Iran reiterates backing for Annan's Syria plan

TEHRAN: Iran on Tuesday repeated its backing for international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan for Syria, calling it the only way to end the 15-month crisis as the former U.N. chief visited Damascus.

"The best solution in this situation is to support Kofi Annan and his plan to restore order in Syria, preparing the ground for a dialogue between government and opposition and helping the Syrian government to implement reforms," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

He was speaking after the weekend massacre of more than 100 civilians in the central Syrian town of Houla.

"The failure of Annan's plan is what the Zionist regime's backers want. Nations involved in Syrian affairs should refrain from provoking terrorist actions... Annan's plan should be backed," he added.

"The presence of the Zionist regime in Syrian affairs is tangible," he said, using Iran's terminology for Israel.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government is Tehran's key ally in the Middle East, received Annan in Damascus on Tuesday.

Annan was quoted as saying on Monday that he would have "serious and frank discussions" with Assad on the "tragic" massacre in Houla, calling it "an appalling moment with profound consequences."

Mehmanparast reiterated that Iran condemns "inhuman terrorist methods in any country, including Syria."

Iran on Monday condemned the killings of 108 people on Friday and Saturday in Houla, blaming them on "terrorist actions" rather than its Damascus ally and calling for the perpetrators to be punished.

The U.N. Security Council -- where Syrian allies Russia and China wield veto powers -- had on Sunday condemned the Damascus government's use of heavy artillery in the assault on Houla.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said on Tuesday that most of the Houla victims had been summarily executed.

In mid-May, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Damascus needs more time to make Annan's peace plan work.

Iran has provided political and material support to Assad's government as it fights the rebels, but denies 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 mid-March 2011. Syrian activists put the toll at more than 13,000.





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