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Syrien Präsident Bashar al-Assad
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Iran and Russia insist on role for Assad

September 28, 2015

Iran and Russia have both reasserted their backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stressing the need to make the battle against Islamic State. The two countries have begun pooling intelligence in Iraq.


Assad was not present himself at the UN General Assembly in New York, but his interests were represented by Iran and Russia both insisting that the Syrian leader must remain in power in the immediate term.

The comments were made amid a shift in emphasis away from the immediate removal of Assad, with Britain and Germany both suggesting he might remain in place for some time, as part of any transitional agreement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an interview Sunday he was ready to discuss a "plan of action" for the post-war future of Syria.

"I think today everyone has accepted that President Assad must remain so that we can combat the terrorists," Rouhani told CNN.

"In Syria, when our first objective is to drive out terrorists and combatting terrorists to defeat them, we have no solution other than to strengthen the central authority and the central government of that country as a central seat of power," said Rouhani, who is visiting New York for the UN General Assembly.

Rouhani said the fight against "Islamic State" (IS) should be the priority and the need for political reform on the part of the Assad government should only be addressed afterwards.

"This does not mean that the Syrian government does not need reform ... Of course it does," Rouhani told an audience of US think-tanks and journalists on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

'Intensifying our work'

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin described troops loyal to the Syrian leader as the "one legitimate conventional army in Syria."

"We have proposed to cooperate with the countries in the region. We are trying to establish some kind of coordinated framework," Putin said in an interview with CBS News "60 Minutes."

"We are considering intensifying our work with both President Assad and with our partners in other countries," he said, according to an English-language transcript.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed an announcement by Iraq that Russian, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian officers had formed a joint intelligence cell - to share information and plans to combat the IS group - in Baghdad.

"It's a committee coordinating between the four countries, with representatives of each country, in the field of military intelligence," Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office, told the AFP news.

"Having a broader base of intelligence thanks to cooperation with these three countries as well as with the coalition will give our security forces more opportunities to achieve victory in the war against terrorism," Hadithi said.

rc/bw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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