Last updated: 19 December, 2011

Iran backs ally Syria on Arab League plan

Iran on Monday said it backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s decision to start implementing an Arab League plan to quell the violence in his country by finally letting in observers.

But Tehran suggested it was not entirely happy with the pressure Arab states had brought to bear on Damascus, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying their action towards Syria was “like a joke.”

Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, Hossein Amir Abdolahian, told the state Arabic language television network Al-Alam that “Iran’s official stance regarding Syria and the Arab League plan is that whatever Bashar al-Assad deems as acceptable, we would approve of and accept.”

He added that the Arab League plan “contains many of the points Iran was also looking at,” even if not all concerns were addressed.

Ahmadinejad, though, criticised Arab nations for the way they had been treating Syria, Iran’s principal ally in the Middle East.

“Certain regional countries carry out acts which Iran considers to be more like a joke,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

“Some regional countries, which have never held an election, have come together and pass resolutions against another country saying ‘Why don’t you hold an election’?” he said.

Syria on Monday signed an agreement to allow foreign observers in to monitor the implementation of the Arab League plan designed to halt nine months of bloodshed that started when security forces cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

The plan calls for a complete halt to the violence, the release of those detained as a result of recent events and the complete withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts.

Syria was suspended from Arab League meetings and subjected to a raft of sanctions when it initially refused to let in the observers.