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The first footage of Iranian troops in action in Syria emerged last night, shedding fresh light on the pivotal role Tehran is taking in the fight to defend the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The footage, taken from a camera captured by rebel fighters, shows Iranian soldiers supervising Syrian Government troops, managing communications in the battle around Aleppo and commanding pro-regime militias.
Iran and China have underlined the need for further expansion of Tehran-Beijing cooperation to find a political solution to the deadly crisis gripping Syria.
During a Thursday meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic Republic “is prepared to initiate effective and constructive cooperation with China on various regional issues, particularly for the resolution of the Syria crisis.”
Rouhani further reiterated Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, saying, “The Iranian government and nation seek the implementation of their legitimate rights within the framework of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty).”
BEIRUT President Bashar Assad says Syria will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons. Meanwhile, the United Nations said it has received a letter from Syria stating its intention to join the chemical weapons treaty which bans the production, stockpiling and use of the deadly weapons.
Assad says submitting the data a month after signing the convention is the "standard process" and his country will follow it.
He made the comment in an interview with Russia's Rossiya-24 TV. The full interview will be broadcast later Thursday.
However, speaking in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected Assad's suggestion that a 30-day delay is "standard."
"There is nothing standard about this process," Kerry said, because Assad has used his chemical weapons. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."
“It doesn’t mean that Syria will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations and that’s it. It’s a bilateral process aimed, first of all, at making the US stop pursuing its policy of threats against Syria,” Assad said, adding that a lot would also depend on the extent to which Russia’s proposal is accepted.
“If we want stability in the Middle East, all the countries in the region should stick to [international] agreements," Assad said. “And Israel is the first state that should do so, since Israel possessed nuclear, chemical, biological and all other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”
The president recalled that a project on the elimination of WMD had been proposed, but the US opposed it “to allow Israel” to have such weapons.
Any kind of a war against Syria would “destroy the entire region” and lead to decades of instability in the Middle East, Assad said.
Assad said the Russian deal was a two-sided process. "We are counting, first of all, on the United States stop conducting the policy of threats regarding Syria," he said.
Syria's Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil also suggested on Thursday that the Russian proposal will succeed only if the United States and its allies pledge not to attack Syria in the future.