TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's foreign minister on Monday criticized demands for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying such calls have prolonged the Arab country's civil war.
Mohammad Javad Zarif went so far as to say that those who have in the past years demanded Assad's ouster "are responsible for the bloodshed in Syria."
The top Iranian diplomat did not name any specific country in the region but was likely referring to Turkey's and Saudi Arabia's repeated calls for Assad to step down. The two Sunni Muslim countries have supported rebels fighting against Assad.
Also Monday, French President Francois Hollande, in announcing that France will send reconnaissance flights over Syria beginning Tuesday and is considering airstrikes in the fight against the Islamic State group, said that resolving Syria's war will only happen if Assad leaves power.
The Shiite-majority Iran is a leading patron of Assad and Tehran has also sent military advisers to Damascus to help the Syrian president's troops against the Islamic State group. Iran, however, denies sending combat forces to help Assad militarily.
"Peace will not return to Syria with the slogans we are hearing from Syria's neighboring countries," Zarif said, adding that whether Assad stays or goes is a "decision for the Syrian people to make."
Speaking at a press conference in Tehran with his visiting Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo, Zarif insisted the Syrian crisis has no military solution and that no solution can be imposed on the Syrian people "from outside Syria."
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