Middle East

Ramadan ceasefire in Syria 'desirable': Iran

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare a mortar after what activists said were clashes between government forces and the Free Syrian Army in Damascus July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah

TEHRAN: Iran said Tuesday it would welcome ceasefire between rebel forces and the Syrian government during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reiterating that a national dialogue was the only way to resolve the crisis.

Iran's backing for ceasefire came as Syria's opposition National Coalition called for international pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for a truce in the besieged central city of Homs during Ramadan.

"Ceasefire in essence is definitely a desirable affair," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told reporters at his weekly press conference as he acknowledged the Syrian opposition group's call.

Syrian regime forces have been pushing an assault on several rebel-held areas of the city of Homs for more than two weeks. The operations have raised fears for trapped civilians and prompted concern from the U.N. and the opposition National Coalition.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon last week too called on all parties in Syria "to stop fighting and offer this month of peace as a collective present to their people".

Ramadan, which started on Wednesday in Syria, is observed by Muslims around the world with the faithful fasting from dawn to dusk.

Araqchi said the armed Syrian opposition must come to term with holding "national dialogue" with Damascus and putting down arms.

"We advise them to implement a complete truce, put away their weapons and engage in negotiations with the Syrian government," Araqchi said, reiterating Iran's position that armed rebellion offers no solution to the Syrian crisis.

"The only way is national dialogue between the government and all real opposition (groups)," he said referring to opposition tolerated by Damascus.

Iran is a staunch supporter of the Assad government in its fight against rebels, whom Tehran regards as "terrorists" backed by Western and Arab countries.

The Islamic republic is in turn accused of arming the Syrian forces in the raging conflict, which has claimed more than 100,000 people since it erupted in March 2011.





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