President Basher al-Assad has told visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi that the war engulfing his country threatens not just Syria, but also Iran and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hizballah movement.
Syria's state news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling Salehi in Damascus on September 19 that "the ongoing battle is targeting" not just Syria but "the whole of the resistance axis."
"Resistance axis" is a term that Assad's regime, Iran, and Hizballah use to refer to themselves in their common opposition to Israel.
SANA also quoted Assad as saying that his regime had "shown openness in dealing with all initiatives put forward to find a solution to the crisis," and that "the key to any initiative's success is the sincerity of the intentions behind it."
Assad and his allies in Iran, China, and Russia -- as well as Hizballah -- have consistently blamed the civil war that has engulfed Syria on Western governments, Gulf Arab states, and Turkey.
Salehi told journalists in Damascus on September 19 that Syria's 19-month conflict can only be resolved by Syrians.
But Salehi also called for countries in the region "that can play a role" to get involved and act as "one big regional family of nations."
"We need to coordinate with countries in the region who have a role to play and other organizations who have a role to play to try and find an honest resolution," Salehi said.
U.S.: Iran's 'Deceptive Practices'
But in Washington, the U.S. Treasury Department accused Iran of using "deceptive practices" to help Damascus obtain weapons and communications equipment "that contribute to the regime's violence against the Syrian people."
The Treasury Department identified 117 Iranian aircraft that it says have been used to support arms and equipment deliveries to Assad's forces.
It said the aircraft were operated by three Iranian firms with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards -- Iran Air, Mahan Air, and Yas Air -- as part of "deceptive practices to try to evade sanctions."
Independent Western journalists in Syria, meanwhile, reported heavy fighting continued in the northern city of Aleppo and in Damascus -- even as the Iranian foreign minister was meeting with Assad.
A BBC correspondent in Damascus reported on September 19 that government artillery was firing heavy barrages into the southern residential suburbs of the capital.
Opposition activists say government troops also advanced into the southern suburb of Hajar al-Aswad after many rebel fighters fled the shelling of that neighborhood.
Amnesty International on September 19 accused government forces of launching "indiscriminate" air and artillery strikes against civilians, saying Assad's regime was "killing, maiming, and terrorizing" civilians in the provinces of Idlib and Hama.
It said potential war crimes in those provinces are under-reported by international media because the world's attention is focused on fighting in Damascus and Aleppo.
Turkish officials say rebels seized a border crossing with Turkey on September 19 after an overnight battle against government forces.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and BBC
Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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