Iran reaffirms full support for Annan’s Syria peace plan


Iran on Tuesday reaffirmed its full support for international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan aimed at ending the Syria crisis, saying that the plan should be fully implemented to restore stability.

As many as 28 people have been killed by the fire of Syrian forces on Tuesday, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian activists.

“We expect that Mr Annan will continue his efforts to bring about stability and peace in Syria and the region,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at a joint news conference with the U.N. and Arab league envoy.

Annan arrived in Iran after talks with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday and following a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Geneva last month to which Iran, Damascus’s staunchest regional ally, was not invited.

Tehran was excluded from the Geneva talks -- which the Islamic republic dubbed “unsuccessful” -- following US and EU objections.

The gathering in Switzerland agreed a plan for a political transition in Syria which did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit, although the West and the opposition made clear it saw no role for him in a unity government.

Annan, a former U.N. chief, on Tuesday reiterated his wish that Iran be involved in a solution to the crisis.

Accusing Iran of supporting Assad

The West and the Syrian opposition accuse Tehran of supporting the regime in Damascus militarily, a charge it vehemently denies.

“There is a risk that the situation in Syrian gets out of hand and spreads to the region,” Annan told reporters.

“Iran can play a positive role,” he said, adding he would continue to work with the Iranian leadership to resolve the crisis which monitors say has cost more than 17,000 lives.

Salehi reiterated that “Iran is part of the solution” in Syria, and criticized Arab and Western countries, without naming names, for excluding it.

But he also hailed Annan’s “neutrality” on the issue.

Before flying to Tehran, Annan said he had agreed on a new “approach” with Assad to stop the violence, which activists say has killed more than 17,000 people since the conflict began in March 2011.

Annan did not spell out the agreement or say what kind of involvement he saw for Iran in resolving the crisis. Anti-regime fighters dismissed any role for Iran in a plan they and some experts say has little hope of succeeding, The Associated Press reported.

Annan peace plan

Annan presented a peace plan earlier this year, but it has been deeply troubled from the start.

Government forces and rebels have widely disregarded a cease-fire that was to begin in April, and spreading violence has kept nearly 300 U.N. observers monitoring the truce stuck in their hotels in Syria.

After a two-hour meeting with Assad on Monday, Annan said the men had agreed on “an approach” to stop the violence, and that the diplomat would share it with the armed opposition.

“I also stressed the importance of moving ahead with a political dialogue which the president accepts,” Annan said.

Last week, Annan acknowledged that international efforts to find a political solution for Syria had failed and called for a greater role for Iran, saying Tehran “should be part of the solution.”

Syria’s uprising began with political protests and has since evolved into an armed insurgency, with scores of rebels groups across the country regularly clashing with government troops and attacking their convoys and checkpoints.

On Monday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said its total death toll for the conflict is more than 17,000 people. That includes 11,900 civilians, nearly 900 military defectors and about 4,350 government soldiers.

The group relies on a network of activists on the ground who document deaths and right violations by talking to witnesses and medics and watching amateur videos.

Another group, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), says more than 14,800 civilians and rebel fighters have been killed. The group does not report military deaths.

The Syrian government says more than 4,000 soldiers have been killed. It does not provide numbers for civilian dead and bars most media from working in the country.

In a rare interview with the foreign press broadcast Sunday, Assad said most of those killed in Syria were government supporters.

He also told German public broadcaster ARD that the United States is complicit in the killings, saying it backs the opposition he says is made up of armed gangs and terrorists.

Asked if he feared that he might share the fate of [Muammar] Qaddafi, who was killed shortly after his capture, Assad said:

“Describing what happened to al-Qaddafi, this is savage, this is crime. Whatever he did, whatever he was, nobody in the world can accept what happened, to kill somebody like this.”

“What happened to Mubarak is different. It’s a trial. Any citizen, when he watches a trial on TV -- he would think that he won’t to be in that position. The answer is: Don’t do like him. Don’t do like him,” the 46-year-old leader said, according to Reuters.

“But to be scared, you have to compare. Do we have something in common? It’s a completely different situation ... You cannot compare. You cannot feel scared -- maybe feel sorry or a pity whatever.”

Ongoing clashes

Inside Syria, activists reported shelling by government forces and clashes with rebels in opposition areas throughout the country Monday. The LCC told Al Arabiya that at least 51 people were killed nationwide.

In May, rebels succeeded in pushing the army from the city center, although government forces kept the city surrounded with checkpoints.

Video shot in the city Monday showed a dead man lying on a sidewalk with his head in a pool of blood and four other bodies in a pickup truck.

Another video from northwestern Syria showed at least five dead government soldiers lying in the street, one with an apparent bullet hole in his forehead.

The death tolls and authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.

Also Monday, Russia, the Assad regime’s biggest arms supplier, said it would not sign any new weapons contracts with Syria until the conflict calms down.

But Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy chief of the Russian military and technical cooperation agency, told Russian news agencies that Russia will fulfill all previous contracts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is still committed to the Annan peace plan, adding that the Syrian government and opposition groups should be “forced” to start a dialogue.