Iran Expresses Hope Assad Stays in Power Despite Syrian Unrest

Declaration by Foreign Minister is first open expression of support for Syrian President; five more people killed in government crackdown on Monday.

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Iran on Tuesday expressed its hope that Syrian President Bashar Assad would stay in power despite civil unrest, news media reported.

"We hope that Arab countries will do whatever necessary to enable a happy end," Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi said.

"Any power vacuum there would have unpredictable consequences," he was quoted by official news agency IRNA as saying.

Syria is Iran's key ally in the Middle East, especially with regards to the two states' antagonistic approach towards Tehran's arch-enemy Israel.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed in September a regional meeting in Tehran on the crisis in Syria to helping Assad's government.

That broke several months of silence by Tehran on the popular uprising in Syria. Iran has since called for talks between government and opponents on possible reforms. Tuesday's declaration was the first open expression of support for Assad to stay in power.

More than 3,000 people, including at least 187 children, have been killed in a Syrian government clampdown since pro-democracy protests began in mid-March, according to the United Nations.

Five people were killed on Monday as government forces continued their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar Assad march through the streets in Homs October 30, 2011.Credit: Reuters

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