Syria Tops Talks for Iranian Officials in Damascus, Ankara

Posted August 7th, 2012 at 4:50 am (UTC-5)
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Iranian officials are fanning out across the region Tuesday for talks on Syria, as violence continues in the country.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi is visiting Turkey to meet with counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara to discuss the Syrian crisis, after 48 Iranians were kidnapped in Damascus Saturday. Iran has reached out to Turkey and Qatar for help in securing their release.

Also Tuesday, Iranian state media said the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, traveled to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials.

The Syrian government suffered a significant blow Monday when Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected, two months after taking the top post. Riad Hijab said he was leaving what he called “the killing and terrorist regime.” Jordanian officials said he had defected to Jordan.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activists say government security forces are shelling neighborhoods in Aleppo Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes were taking place in the city between rebels and Mr. Assad's forces.

Government and opposition claims in Syria are difficult to verify because journalists do not have a freedom of movement.