Ahmadinejad calls for Syrian dialogue

AFP , Thursday 25 Aug 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for dialogue between President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to eliminate violence, which he says 'serves Zionist interests'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, called Wednesday for dialogue between Damascus and the opposition to end months of violence.

"The people and government of Syria must come together to reach an understanding," he told Lebanese Al-Manar television, the station run by the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah movement.

"When there is a problem between the people and their leaders they must sit down together to reach a solution, away from violence," he said.

"One must not kill the other, because killing, whichever side is responsible, serves Zionist interests," Israel's arch-foe added.

Iranian officials have several times called on Assad to make reforms in order to avoid being swept away by rebellions such as those that have occurred in other Arab states.

At the same time, Iran has accused Israel and the United States of trying to undermine Syria.

Washington, the European Union and Syrian opposition groups have accused Tehran of helping Syrian security forces put down the uprising, with the loss of hundreds of lives, a claim vehemently denied by Iran.

"We need freedom, justice and free elections," Ahmadinejad added. But, he added, "the people who seek freedom and justice... must strengthen the resistance against the Zionist entity."

Ahmadinejad's re-election as Iranian president in 2009 sparked waves of protests from opponents claiming they were unfair, resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands of arrests.

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