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Iranian Top Diplomat Meets Syrian Counterpart, PM in Damascus

Iranian Top Diplomat Meets Syrian Counterpart, PM in Damascus

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Damascus on September 3 for talks with President Bashar al-Assad and other Syrian officials ahead of an expected military offensive by Syrian government forces in Idlib Province, the last opposition stronghold in Syria.

Iran is backing Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in his country's civil war along with Russian Federation and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

An air strike near a U.S. base in southeastern Syria has killed at least eight pro-government fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday.

Reuters, citing a report from the Syrian Observatory as well as at least one rebel leader, said airstrikes began Tuesday near the city of Jisr al-Shughour in the province that borders Turkey.

Staffan de Mistura appealed to "President Putin and to President Erdogan, .to make a telephone call", even before they are set to meet with their Iranian counterpart in Tehran on Friday.

Lavrov's remarks came as Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said militants must be "cleaned out" of Idlib province as he prepared for talks between Iran, Syria and Russian Federation about confronting the fighters in Idlib.

A war monitor says Russian Federation resumed air strikes on the opposition and rebel-held Syrian province on Tuesday. "Don't let that happen!"

Britain, France and the US, which together launched limited attacks on Syrian installations in mid-April in retaliation for an alleged Syrian chemical attack, say their red line against illegal weapon use remains in force.

According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced almost half of the country's pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

Russia's Defense Ministry charged in response that the U.S.is collaborating with al-Qaeda-linked rebels to stage an incident that would be a pretext for another round of Western attacks on Assad's regime.

An Iraqi proxy militia, Liwa Imam al-Hussein, has also reportedly deployed close to Idlib province recently, while pro-government ground forces-including the elite Tiger Forces and reconciled rebel factions-were stationed near Idlib late last month.

"Americans have not shown a good record of their fight against extremism and terrorism", the top Iranian diplomat pointed out. "We know that Syrian government forces are preparing to solve this problem".

Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has warned that an assault by the Syrian army and its ally Russian Federation in Idlib could trigger a humanitarian crisis and unleash another wave of refugees from its southern neighbour.