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Iran: 'retired' Revolutionary Guards among Syria hostages

Iranian foreign minister says former members of the Revolutionary Guards are among those taken captive in Syria.

Saeed JaliliEnlarge
Saeed Jalili, head of Iran's supreme national defence council, holds a joint press conference with Iranian ambassador to Syria Mohammad Reza Sheibani (R) at the Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus on August 7, 2012. Tehran will continue to back Syria under President Bashar al-Assad, which acts as a pillar of an Iranian-led regional alliance, Jalili told Assad in Damascus. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi today said retired members of the country's powerful Revolutionary Guards are among the 48 Iranian nationals taken captive in Syria on Saturday, reported BBC News

"A number of the [hostages] are retired members of the Guards and the army," Salehi was quoted by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) as saying upon his return from Turkey, where he had asked for help in securing their release, said BBC

Iran has made a big diplomatic push to resolve the Syria hostage crisis, the largest such incident involving Iranians in Syria. Salehi on Tuesday sent an urgent letter to the United Nations asking for help in freeing Iranians held in Syria and Libya, citing reports that "hostage takers have threatened to kill the remaining captives in the coming hours,” according to Agence-France Press and Al Arabiya.

More from GlobalPost: Iran: US responsible for 48 Iranians captured in Syria

Tehran has also reached out to Ankara. "Turkey has its links with the opposition in Syria. So we think Turkey can play a major role in freeing our pilgrims," Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters in Turkey on Tuesday, Reuters reported

Salehi reiterated Iran's support for the Syrian regime during a meeting with Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko, also on Tuesday, according to ISNA

The hardline Belarussian leader vowed continued support for the "positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran," promising to work against "any measure which is designed against independence and territorial integrity of other countries," reported ISNA. Lukashenko has come under fire for his brutal crackdown on protest activity in Belarus, which is often described as Europe's last dictatorship. 

Iran earlier denied charges by Syrian rebels that Tehran had sent the nation's powerful Revolutionary Guards to shore up the Syrian regime, according to the Guardian. The rebels are in the midst of trying to overthrow Assad in what has become a brutal 17-month-long conflict in Syria. 

Salehi's comments come a day after Iran accused the US of "warmongering" and insisted that Washington should use its influence to secure the release of 48 Iranian nationals taken captive on Saturday, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.

Iran sent a message to the US via its US representative Switzerland, saying, "Because of the US manifest support of terrorist groups and the dispatch of weapons to Syria, the US is responsible for the lives of the 48 Iranian pilgrims abducted in Damascus," according to the Guardian.  

On Iranian television, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani also said the US must take responsibility: "In the name of Islam, some of these governments have launched killings and even treat Iranian pilgrims in Syria with violence," according to Reuters.

"These crimes are not something the Iranian nation will disregard. The American regime and some countries in the region are responsible for these crimes. And they will receive their response in turn," he added, according to the report.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/120808/iran-retired-revolutionary-guards-among-syria-hostages