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Syria

Iran's Salehi reaffirms talks with Syrian opposition

Talks between Syria's opposition and Syria's ally Iran will "continue," Iran's foreign minister has said in Berlin. Ali Akbar Salehi said his encounter Sunday with Syria's opposition chief in Munich was "very fruitful."

Salehi told a foreign policy conference in Berlin on Monday that his talks with Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib at a security conference in Munich on Sunday had been a "very good meeting" and a "good step forward."

"We committed ourselves to continue this discussion," Saheli told the German Council on Foreign Relations on Monday.

Iran has consistently aligned itself with permanent UN Security Council members Russia and China in backing Syrian President Bashar Assad during a nearly two-year uprising involving Syrian rebels.

In Berlin on Monday, Salehi confirmed that Iran continued to back the Assad government.

"We are giving them (Assad's government) economic support, we are sending gasoline, we are sending wheat. We are trying to send electricity to them through Iraq, we have not been successful," Salehi said, but denied sending fighters to Damascus.

Khatib also signals talks

Khatib, who heads Syria's National Coalition opposition grouping told the pan-Arabic channel Al-Jazeera on Monday that it was up to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to take the next step toward dialogue.

"The ball is now in the regime's court," Khatib said. "We will extend our hands for the sake of the [Syrian] people, and in order to help the regime leave in peace."

Khatib, who flew back to Cairo on Sunday, dismissed rejection within opposition circles of such negotiations, saying Monday: "Our people are dying, and we will not allow that."

Last week, Khatib put his leadership on the line by saying he would be willing to negotiate with the Assad regime on condition that it release "160,000 detainees" and issue passports to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced since early 2011.

On Sunday, Syrian state media said Assad had received a senior Iranian official and told him that Syria could withstand "threats … and aggression" like an air attack on a Syrian military base last week which Damascus blamed on Israel.

ipj/kms (Reuters, AFP)