12 April 2011
A spokesman for the Iranian regime has called the recent anti-government demonstrations in Syria part of a plot by the West to undermine a government that supports "resistance" in the Middle East. At least three people were killed and scores wounded on Sunday as Syrian security forces kept up their assault on the coastal town of Baniyas, where anti-government protests gained momentum in recent days.
Unlike uprisings in other parts of the Arab world which Tehran has applauded as an "Islamic awakening" against the Western-backed oppressors, the protests in Syria have so far received little media attention or official comment in Iran. However, at his weekly news conference on Tuesday, the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, said the protests in Syria over the last three weeks, in which 200 people died, according to a rights group, were not a spontaneous event but the result of foreign interference. Syria is Iran's closest Arab ally.
"What is happening in Syria is a mischievous act of Westerners, particularly Americans and Zionists," Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran. "With the help of their media they are trying to create an artificial protest somewhere or exaggerate a demand of a small group and present it, instead, as the demand and will of the majority. No one should be fooled by this trick that Americans are playing," he added.
The governments of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have become close allies in recent years, and both support the Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Iranian government crushed huge opposition protests which erupted after the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. Two people were shot dead during a demonstration on Feb. 14 this year, the first attempt by the opposition movement to rally in more than a year.
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