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Syria should back away from its violent crackdown on protesters and enter talks with the opponents, Iran’s leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a live interview taken in early September in Teheran with Radiotelevisao Portuguesa. “There should be talks” between the Syrian government and its opponents, he added, stressing the importance of dialogue in the matter.
“A military solution is never the right solution”, the Iranian leader said, according to the Portuguese translation of his comments. “We believe that freedom and justice and respect for others are the rights of all nations. All governments have to recognize these rights,” he said. “Problems have to be dealt with through dialogue.”
Ahmadinejad’s comments come after similar comments made by Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who said one month earlier that the Syrian president should answer the legitimate demands of his people. However, Salehi also cautioned that a “power vacuum” in Syria could have “unprecedented repercussions” for the entire region.
“Other countries in the region can help the Syrian government and people to talk to each other with a view to resolving their differences and introducing the reforms that are needed,” Ahmadinejad said. Iran, Damascus chief ally, has blamed nations such as the United States and Israel for instigating long-term protests in Syria, while U. S. and other nations have accused Iran of helping Assad crush the uprisings afflicting the country.
“Other countries have no right to interfere in…domestic discussions,” Ahmadinejad concluded, citing NATO’s controversial intervention in Libya in early 2011 as an example of misguided actions. The ongoing Syrian conflict started in January 2011 with a series of protests that escalated to a violent uprising by the end of March.
The demands of the protesters include for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, for a pluriparty system which would allow other political systems besides the ruling Baath Party, equal rights for Syria’s religious and ethnic groups, as well as broad political freedom, such as freedom of speech, press and assembly.
As protests intensified, the Syrian government used tanks and snipers to force civilians off streets. So far, more than 3,000 protesters have been killed and many more injured, tortured or detained. Since the beginning of the conflict, the Syrian government has made several concessions, but protesters are not satisfied and demand for more meaningful reforms.
Crackdowns on protesters intensified as time went by, causing international reactions. European Union, Arab League, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and many Western governments expressed their disapproval of the Syrian government’s response to the protests.