Top Iran Official Arrives in Syria for Talks With Assad

Jalili lands after two-day visit to Lebanon, where he warned against supporting rebels.

The head of Iran's supreme national council flew to Damascus on Tuesday for talks with embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Jalili landed in Damascus after a two-day visit to Beirut, where he warned against supporting the rebels in Syria. "Those who believe that, by developing insecurity in the countries of the region by sending arms and exporting terrorism, they are buying security for themselves are wrong," he told Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, according to the official news agency IRNA.

"We believe that Syria's friends must help to totally stop the violence, organize national dialogue and general elections in this country, and send humanitarian aid for the Syrian population," the agency quoted Jalili as saying.

Also on Tuesday, Iranian Vice President Hamid Baghaei arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Baghaei is expected to officially invite Morsi to attend aNon-aligned Movement summit due to be held later this month in

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June congratulated Morsi on his election as Egypt's first Islamist president and called his victory an "Islamic awakening in the region," according to Iranian state television.

Baghaei's visit is the first by a senior Iranian official to Egypt since a popular revolt deposed Hosny Mubarak from power last year.

Iran and Egypt have had no diplomatic ties since Iran's 1979
Islamic revolution because of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, but
the two countries cooperate on diplomatic affairs at a non-ambassador level.

Also on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was to visit Turkey on Tuesday for previously unscheduled talks expected to focus on Syria and a group of Iranians seized by rebels there, an Iranian diplomat in Ankara said.

Iran has stood by its ally Syria despite the growing international pressure on Assad, while Turkey has been among his fiercest critics demanding he stand down to defuse a 17-month uprising against his rule.

A Turkish foreign ministry official confirmed the visit, during which he said regional issues will be discussed in talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"It is expected that the talks will take up the Syrian issue and the situation of the pilgrims kidnapped in Damascus, as well as bilateral issues," the Iranian diplomat told Reuters.

He said Salehi was expected to arrive in the afternoon and leave again on Tuesday.

Iran has asked Turkey, as well as Qatar, to help secure the release of 48 Iranians seized by rebels in Syria on suspicion of being military personnel. Tehran says are pilgrims.

A Syrian rebel spokesman said on Monday three of the Iranians had been killed in a government air strike in Damascus and warned the rest of them would be executed if the attacks did not stop. There has been no word of their fate since then.

Syrian rebels fighting to topple Assad accuse Iran of sending fighters from its Revolutionary Guard to help Assad's forces put down the 17-month uprising.

Tehran denies the charge and says the group was on a religious pilgrimage to Syria. Iranian media said on Saturday that the 48 were abducted from a bus in Damascus, the latest in a string of kidnappings of visitors from the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has accused Turkey and Qatar of helping rebels fighting to topple Assad, a close ally Iran has praised for promising political reforms. Several Iranians previously abducted in Syria have been released to Turkish authorities before returning to Iran.

In a sign of Tehran's diplomatic efforts to secure the release of its nationals, the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, flew to Damascus on Tuesday after ending a visit in Beirut.