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Iran's Zarif: We Never Sent Hezbollah to Syria

Iranian Foreign Minister denies his country sent Hezbollah to fight in Syria, says the group "makes it own decisions."
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 1/24/2014, 11:00 PM

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied on Friday his country had sent Hezbollah to fight in Syria, AFP reported.

Zarif, who spoke saying at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, claimed the Tehran-backed Shiite group was making its own decisions.

He also said he believed the Syrian conflict could be resolved within the next year, saying he hoped talks in Geneva would bear fruit.

Zarif, who has been seen as the new face of the Rslamic republic since coming to office in August, was unusually combative in a tense panel session held in the Swiss mountain town of Davos, according to AFP.

Under constant questioning about Iran's role in shoring up Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Zarif said it was "preposterous" to suggest that Tehran was supporting extremist groups fighting in Syria.

"We are not sending people, Hezbollah has made its own decision," Zarif told the audience, adding that Iran had also suffered at the hands of Sunni Al-Qaeda extremists.

But he tacitly acknowledged Iran's support for Assad, when asked if the long-time leader would have survived against a determined uprising without Tehran's help.

"Of course he would, nobody would survive unless they have domestic legitimacy," Zarif insisted.

Asked if he would call for Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria, he added, "What I can ask is for all foreign elements to leave Syria and for the Syrian people to decide their own future.”

"To stop funneling funds and money and arms into Syria and to allow the Syrian people to decide their destiny... hopefully in Geneva, although we were not invited. But we are hoping that Geneva can produce results, because we are in the region, we will be affected by any disaster coming out of the region," said Zarif.

Hezbollah has actively helped Assad’s troops in the war against rebels trying to topple him. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has promised that his group will be wherever is needed in Syria and has also declared he was willing to go fight in Syria himself.

Iran, too, has openly supported Assad and  has provided Assad with military support during his fight against the rebels.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.

Despite its one-sided support of Assad, the Islamic Republic this week called for an end to terrorism in Syria, saying that "terrorist actions against Syrian citizens are crimes against humanity and those responsible for acts of terrorism must take responsibility."

It is due to Iran’s support of Assad that the United States had been against inviting it to the Geneva II talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Iran was finally not invited to join the opening of a peace conference in Switzerland, because it failed to sign up to a 2012 accord which sets out that Assad must give way to a transitional government to end the fighting.

Zarif said it would be possible to end the war within the next 12 months.

"It is possible, it's for us to decide and for us to implement that decision... and Iran is committed to that," AFP quoted him as having said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)