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Iran: Syria Should Heed Citizens’ Demands


Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi speaks with ambassadors during a session in Tehran, July 10, 2011 (file photo)

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi speaks with ambassadors during a session in Tehran, July 10, 2011 (file photo)

Syria's closest ally, Iran, is calling on the government in Damascus to listen to the people's "legitimate demands."

The comments Saturday by Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi were the first such remarks from Iran since the five-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began.

Salehi warned of dangerous regional implications if the crisis in Syria was not solved peacefully. He said a power vacuum in Syria would have "unprecedented repercussions'' among its neighbors.

But despite the widespread calls for peace, Syrian activists say forces loyal to Assad once again attacked anti-government protesters. At least two people were killed in the fighting in cities across the country.

However, the Syrian government has denied reports of protests in the capital. The state-run SANA news agency said foreign news organizations "fabricated" the stories.

In a separate development, the Arab League discussed Syria's crisis at a meeting Saturday in Cairo.

The United Nations says more than 2,000 people have died in the country during the government's crackdown on dissent. Assad has blamed much of the violence on what he calls armed "gangs" and "terrorists."

On Friday, rights groups and activists said security forces shot at protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma, Dara'a province in the south and the eastern town of Deir Ezzor. They said at least three people were killed.

Syria countered, though, by saying "hooded gunmen" opened fire on police in Deir Ezzor, wounding three officers. SANA said law enforcement officers responded by shooting and killing two of the gunmen. The news agency also said "gunmen" attacked a security building in Douma, wounding two guards.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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