DUBAI - Qatar, a major supporter of Syrian rebels, urged them on Sunday not to kill Iranians seized two months ago near Damascus, after the captors threatened to start killing their 48 prisoners.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani made the appeal following a request from Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to secure a release of the captives.
The Syrian rebel al-Baraa brigade said on Thursday it would start killing the Iranians unless Assad, battling an 18-month-old uprising, freed Syrian opposition detainees and stopped shelling civilian areas.
A statement on the brigade's Facebook page on Sunday said it had extended its deadline by 24 hours at the request of mediators. The rebels say the captives are members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Tehran says they were pilgrims visiting Shi'ite Muslim shrines.
"As a general policy in the state of Qatar, we don't accept the killing of prisoners," Sheikh Hamad told Al Jazeera television. "We also don't accept further escalation of the situation in Syria. We agree that all parties have their demands, but the basic principle is not to kill prisoners."