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Syria's neighbors back plan for holiday cease-fire

Syria's Muslim neighbors have backed a cease-fire plan between government and rebel fighters during upcoming religious holidays. However, convincing the warring parties themselves would appear to be a far taller order.

Members of the Free Syrian Army hold their rifles as they secure a street in the Damascus suburb of Saqba August 17, 2012. Syria's government and rebels have chosen the path of war, a U.N. peacekeeping chief said as the world body ended its doomed monitoring mission to Damascus and deadlock persists among world powers over how to contain the spreading conflict. REUTERS/Omar al-Khani (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Krieg in Syrien Kämpfe in Damaskus

Iran joined Turkey and the Arab League on Wednesday in backing the plan for a cease-fire during the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi - who made the proposal - has underlined the regional nature of the Syria crisis by embarking on an extensive tour of the Near and Middle East.

As support for a temporary truce grew, Brahimi said there was a real danger the conflict would spread. "Either it is solved, or it gets worse... and sets (the region) ablaze," said Brahimi. "A truce for Eid al-Adha would be a microscopic step in the road to solving the Syria crisis," he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu voiced Ankara's support. "In principle, we consider a cease-fire ... to be declared during the Eid al-Adha as useful," Davutoglu said on Wednesday. The four-day holiday, which starts on October 26, is one of the holiest in the Muslim calendar.

In Cairo, Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi - a representative of Syria's Arab neighbors - urged the warring factions to accept Brahimi's proposal. Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iran's state news agency IRNA that Tehran had thrown its weight behind the truce.

Syrian Foreign Minister Jihad Makdissi said Damascus expressed hope that Brahimi's tour of the region - including with countries which back the rebels - could herald "something which leads to the success of a constructive initiative."

Frosty response from rebel fighters

The minister said Syria had previously been committed to a cease-fire initiative, but that this had failed because of "armed groups and the countries that influence them."

The main opposition Syrian National Council cautiously welcomed the idea, but the rebel Free Syrian Army said a truce would give the regime an opportunity to prepare for new attacks.

Brahimi's tour takes in Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

In Syria, opponents of President Bashar Assad posted videos to the Internet of what they said was a military helicopter spiralling to the ground and exploding. Rebel fighters claimed to have downed the aircraft in the northern provinces of Idlib.

Across the country, opposition activists said that at least 130 people had been killed on Wednesday, in a day of particularly bloody fighting in Idlib and Aleppo.

Also on Wednesday, Turkey returned fire after a mortar shell from the Syrian side of the border exploded on the Turkish side of the Orontes River. No casualties were reported.

rc/jr (dpa, AFP, Reuters, IPS)