The United States and its allies are exploiting popular protests in Syria to try to break an alliance between Damascus and Tehran against Israel, a senior Iranian official said on Wednesday.
Iran is watching the unrest in neighboring Syria with alarm and rejects western allegations it is helping its closest ally in the Middle East to crush a three-month popular uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule.
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Ramin Mehmanparast, a special adviser to Iran's Foreign Minister, said the alliance between Iran and Syria constituted a threat not only to Israel, but also to the West's interests in the Middle East.
"The West could not stop regional uprisings ... America lost a close ally in the region with the overthrow of (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak," Mehmanparast said.
"As interests of America and its allies are endangered in the region ... they are trying to shift the crisis by creating problems for independent countries (like Iran and Syria)."
Mehmanparast said the West planned to replace Assad with a leader less hostile to itself and Israel.
"They are trying to harm Syria as it is playing a prime role in opposing Israel in the region," said Mehmanparast, who is also Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Tehran sees Syria's unrest as a "Zionist plot" against its close ally Damascus. The Islamic state is accused of equipping Syria to block the internet, drawing on its own extensive experience of crushing anti-government protests that followed the country's disputed 2009 presidential vote.
Syria has denied receiving any support from Iran to put down the popular unrest. Iran also denies the accusation.
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"A part of the people in Syria, which are not the majority, have some demands. Their demands should be expressed in a peaceful way as well," he said.
Rights groups say security forces and gunmen loyal to Assad have killed over 1,300 civilians since March when the uprising for political freedom erupted in Syria, adding that scores of troops and police were also killed for refusing to fire on civilians.
Syrian authorities say more than 250 soldiers and police died in clashes with "armed terrorist groups," whom they also blame for most civilian deaths.
"The number of security forces killed in Syria shows (not all) protesters are ordinary people," Mehmanparast said, accusing the US and Israel of "provoking terrorist groups in Syria."
Mehmanparast warned the West over repercussions that might go beyond Syria if destabilized.
Syria, which borders Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, has regional influence because of its alliance with Iran and its continued role in Lebanon, despite ending a 29-year military presence there in 2005.
"Iranians are trying to gain new allies to prevent expansion of Sunni's power in the region," said political analyst Ali Fazeli.
Mehmanparast said Iran had no intention to adopt "hostile foreign policy" toward any regional country.
"Boosting regional ties has always been a priority for Iran ... any
country ... that blocks such convergence is moving in line with the
Zionist regime's interests," Mehmanparast said, accusing Washington of
creating discord among Muslims.