Iran will fund a multi-million- dollar army base on Syria’s coast to funnel military equipment to the beleaguered regime of President Bashar Assad, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Friday.

The report comes amid growing diplomatic pressure on Damascus, violent suppressing a five-month popular uprising, from neighboring Turkey as well as from the United States.

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Quoting Western intelligence reports, the Daily Telegraph said the deal to build a base near Latakia was struck in June between Muhammad Nasif Kheirbek – Syria’s deputy vice president for security affairs and a close Assad ally – and Ghasem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Western diplomats have accused Tehran of sending riotcontrol and intelligence-gathering equipment, as well as fuel, to help Assad quash the unrest.

Syria is the only Arab regime closely allied with the Islamic Republic.

Teams of Revolutionary Guard officers are to be stationed at Latakia on a permanent basis, where they will coordinate the arms shipments with officials from Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence service.

A similar joint command center was set up at Damascus international airport earlier this year, but Latakia is regarded as a more suitable destination as it is not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as Damascus.

Latakia is the main city of the northern coastal region where Assad’s minority Alawite community is rooted.

The new base will cost around $23 million, and be designed to handle arms shipments including machine guns, rockets and medium-range missiles.

“The direct route is being set up to make it easier to pass advanced Iranian weapons and equipment to Syria,” a senior Western security official told the Daily Telegraph.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that his country had seized a truck full of weapons traveling from Iran to Syria. The seizure on April 30 on the Turkish- Syrian border was made public this month by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.

In March, Turkey seized the cargo of an Iranian plane bound for Syria because the shipment violated UN sanctions.

Turkish media reported that an Iranian plane, bound for the Syrian city of Aleppo, was forced to make a “technical stop” in southeast Turkey. Turkish officials found that equipment listed as “auto spare parts” on the plane’s documents were a consignment of weapons, including assault rifles, machine guns and mortars.

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