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Iran mulls sending observers to monitor Syria poll

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Iran is considering sending observers to monitor the June 3 presidential election in its key regional ally Syria, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Shiite Iran is a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, who has been battling mostly Sunni rebels who have been trying to oust him since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

"Sending observers is on the agenda and we are studying that," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told journalists during her weekly news briefing in Tehran.

On Sunday, the speaker of the Syrian parliament, Mohammad al-Lahham invited 13 parliament from "friendly countries" to send observers to monitor the vote, without identifying them.

Assad, running for a third seven-year term against two virtual unknowns, is expected to stroll to victory in the poll.

The election has been dismissed as a "farce" by the opposition and a "parody of democracy" by the United States.

Voting will only be held in territory under government control, amid a brutal civil war that has killed more than 160,000 people and made millions homeless.

"From the very beginning, Iran has advocated a political solution ... for resolving the crisis," said Afkham.

"We believe the international community begins to gradually understand this matter," she said, stressing however that "the will of the Syrian people must be the foundation of any decision."

"Provoking opposition groups to carry on action that is against the will of the (Syrian) people will not bear any fruit," she added, referring Western and Arab support for rebels groups.

Syrian opposition groups and Western countries have accused Tehran of supplying Damascus with military and financial backing.

Iran says it only has military experts on the ground in Syria and that it is providing the Assad regime with humanitarian assistance.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140520/iran-mulls-sending-observers-monitor-syria-poll-0