Bashar Assad
Bashar Assad Photo by AP
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Western attempts to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is the result of Syria's support of Palestinian groups fighting to end Israeli occupation, an Iranian lawmaker said on Thursday.

A report in Iran's semi-official Fars news agency quoted Ebrahim Aqa Mohammadi, a member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, as calling international pressure on Syria an act of "revenge."

"The pressures on Syria to topple the Bashar Assad's government are firstly an act of revenge on the resistance which has countered the Zionist regime for years," the Iranian official was quoted as saying.

Mohammadi added that as "a leading state in the fight against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, Syria has always been in the frontline of the resistance," he added.

Earlier this week, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post of the consequences Assad's fall would bring, saying that "Syrian society is a beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, faiths and cultures, and it will be smashed to pieces should President Bashar Assad abruptly fall."

While Salehi said Iran sought a solution that was in "everyone's interest", Western diplomats have dismissed the conference as an attempt to divert attention away from bloody events on the ground and to preserve the rule of Assad.

"The Islamic Republic's support for Assad's regime is hardly compatible with a genuine attempt at conciliation between the parties," said one Western diplomat based in Tehran.

It showed Iran was "running out of ideas", he added. Another Western diplomat said Tehran was trying to broaden the support base of the Syrian leader.

The Islamic Republic has resisted an agreement on Syria that requires Assad to quit as part of any political transition. There is no sign that Tehran is ready to adopt a new approach, despite setbacks for Assad including the defection this week of his prime minister.

But analysts say the recent signs of cracks in the Syrian leadership have taken Iran by surprise.

"Iran is trying to show strength and regional presence, but if they were going to make a big play why not do it at the Non-Aligned Movement summit (taking place in Tehran in late August)?" said Scott Lucas of the EA Worldview news website that specializes in covering Iran
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"They seem to be so jittery about Syria, they couldn't afford to wait," he added.