'Iran arming Assad to suppress protests'

US says visit of senior Quds force official is "strongest indication" that Iran supplies Assad with weapons, AFP reports.

Syrian protest 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian protest 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A recent visit of the heads of the Quds force to Syria is the "strongest indication yet" that Iran is supplying the Assad regime with weapons, AFP quoted a senior US official as saying Saturday.
Major-General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds force, visited Syria this month, AFP reported. "We think this relates to Iranian support for the Syrian government's attempts to suppress its people," the senior US official said.
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“We are confident that he was received at the highest levels of the Syrian government, including by President Assad,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “The US government believes Iran has supplied Syria with munitions” for use in the military crackdown.
The United States has long suspected Iran of supplying Damascus with weapons as Assad struggles to cope with mass protests against his rule. 
Earlier in the week, Turkish customs officials intercepted four trucks suspected of carrying military equipment from Iran to Syria.
Iran officially denied reports about arms shipments to Syria. A statement by the Iranian embassy in Turkey obtained by CNN Friday stated: "We deny such claims and we would like to state that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees people's demands to be paid attention to as a way of providing domestic security and stability and believes that dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition is the way out from the current situation."
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The United Nations has said that more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in the unrest which erupted in March, inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere. Authorities accuse armed Islamist militants of killing 2,000 members of the security forces.
The crackdown against protest has been ongoing despite an Arab League monitoring mission, now about 165 strong, which began work on December 26. Its task is to verify if Syria is complying with an agreement to halt the crackdown. Some reports indicate that the killing of protesters has actually increased since the arrival of the League monitors.