'Iran calls on Assad to enter talks with opposition'

Ahmadinejad quoted as saying that a military crackdown "is never the right solution, governments have to respect nations' rights for freedom."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
TEHRAN - Iraian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Iran's closest ally Syria to open talks with an opposition movement that is demanding an end to Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule, a sign of concern about losing support in the Arab world at a time of popular unrest.
In an interview with a Portuguese broadcaster this week, Ahmadinejad said a military crackdown "is never the right solution", according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
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"Governments have to respect and recognize their nations' rights for freedom and justice... Problems have to be resolved through dialogue," he was quoted as telling Radiotelevisao Portuguesa in Tehran on Wednesday.
"Syria has become a dilemma for Iran ... Tehran doesn't want to lose its main ally in the region but by supporting Assad Tehran may outrage the Arab nation," said analyst Amir Sedghi.
"The call for talks is not a shift of policy but maybe change of tactics by Iran ahead of Ahmadinejad's trip to America." Ahmadinejad will travel to New York to participate in the United National General Assembly on Sept. 22.
Iranian officials have repeatedly called on Syria to respect the opposition's demands for reform.
But while Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said last month that Assad must respond to the demands of the people, he did not -- unlike some regional Arab powers -- criticize Assad's use of force to crush protests.
"The regional countries can help Syria to resolve the problem," Ahmadinejad said.
Tehran accuses the United States and its allies of inciting protests in Syria to target an outpost of steadfast opposition to Israel, given Assad's support of Palestinian militant groups and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Assad declared a state of war on Wednesday and issued a general mobilization of troops, Al-Quds newspaper reported Thursday evening.
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