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China backs Annan's call for Iran role in Syria talks

BEIRUT - China threw its weight behindUN envoy Kofi Annan on Wednesday, backing his call to includeIran in internationally-brokered talks to resolve Syria'scrisis, in the face of strong Western opposition.

"China believes that the appropriate resolution of the Syriaissue cannot be separated from the countries in the region,especially the support and participation of those countries thatare influential on relevant sides in Syria," Foreign Ministryspokesman Liu Weimin said in Beijing.

UN Security Council veto-holders China and Russia have forthe past year blocked efforts by Washington and its European andGulf Arab allies to turn the screws on Syrian President Bashar Assad, fighting to defend his mostly Alawite rulingestablishment against an uprising dominated by Sunni Muslims.

Assad's opponents say just under 13,000 armed and unarmedopponents of Assad, and around 4,300 members of security forcesloyal to Damascus, have been killed since he launched acrackdown 16 months ago, using tanks and helicopter gunships toattack rebel strongholds inside Syria's biggest cities.

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