Attack on Syria considered attack on Iran: official

ASSERTIVE::Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received a boost yesterday from Iran, who said that it regards Syria as playing a key role in ‘promoting resistance’

Reuters and AFP,DUBAI and Beirut

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 - Page 6

Iran would consider any attack on Syria an attack on itself, a senior government official was quoted as saying yesterday, in one of Tehran’s most assertive defenses of its ally yet.

Iran is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting an almost two-year-long revolt. Tehran has already repeatedly warned the West against intervening in the conflict against al-Assad.

“Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for promoting firm policies of resistance ... For this reason an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran’s allies,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the Mehr news agency.

Tehran sees Damascus as part of an axis of opposition to Israeli and Western influence in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels freed more than 100 inmates as they battled against regime troops in a major prison outside the northwestern city of Idlib yesterday, a watchdog said.

At least 10 rebels were killed on Friday in clashes inside the prison, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The rebels have been able to free more than 100 prisoners since fighting broke out on Friday, but they have not gained control of the prison,” the Britain-based Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman said by telephone.

Videos posted online by activists showed rebels inside the penitentiary, which is located at the western entrance of the provincial capital. The city remains under regime control, but Idlib Province is mostly opposition-held.

Dozens of prisoners were shown escaping to an outdoor area of the prison, protected by rebels, as gunfire and explosions were heard in the background.

One man collapsed, bleeding profusely, and others were seen struggling to carry him along with them.