DUBAI - Members of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are in Syria providing non-military assistance and Iran may get involved militarily if Syria comes under attack, its commander said on Sunday.

The statement is the first official acknowledgement from a senior military commander that Iran has a military presence on the ground in Syria where an uprising has left tens of thousands dead since it began 18 months ago.

Western countries and Syrian opposition groups have accused Iran of providing weapons and expertise to Syrian armed forces and have suspected an Iranian military presence inside the country. Iran has denied this.

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