ADDIS ABABA - Iran called on staunch ally Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday to hold free elections and allow multiple political parties to operate in the country, but said he must be given time to implement these reforms.
Iran had at first wholeheartedly supported Assad's hardline stance against the 10 months of popular protests that have called for an end to his leadership.
It has since tempered its rhetoric as the uprising has dragged on and international pressure has risen, although it condemns what it calls foreign interference in Syrian affairs.
"They have to have a free election, they have to have the right constitution, they have to allow different political parties to have their activities freely in the country. And this is what he has promised," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at a news conference on the sidelines of an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.