Iran ready to 'train' Syria army, says commander
TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse
Smoke rises after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa province, eastern Syria May 3, 2013. REUTERS photoIran is ready to help "train" the Syrian army if Damascus seeks such assistance, the commander of the Islamic republic's army ground forces, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, was quoted as saying on Sunday.
"As a Muslim nation, we back Syria, and if there is need for training we will provide them with the training, but won't have any active involvement in the operations," he said in remarks reported by the official IRNA news agency.
"The Syrian army has accumulated experience during years of conflict with the Zionist regime (Israel) and is able to defend itself and doesn't need foreign assistance," he added.
His remarks came as a senior Israeli source said on Sunday that the Jewish state carried out an air strike near Damascus overnight, targeting Iranian missiles destined for Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement.
"The target was Iranian missiles which were destined for Hezbollah," he told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Iran has remained a steadfast ally of President Bashar al-Assad's regime throughout the Syrian conflict which the United Nations says has killed more than 70,000 people since it erupted in March 2011.
Tehran sends regular shipment of what it terms as humanitarian aid to Damascus using Iraqi airspace, a move which has prompted Washington to ask Baghdad to inspect such flights.
Washington has for months accused Baghdad of looking the other way as Tehran sends military equipment through Iraqi airspace to Syria, and has called on Iraqi authorities to make random, unannounced inspections.