11 February 2013, 11:10

Iran, Hezbollah building militia network in Syria

Iran, Hezbollah building militia network in Syria

Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have jointly set up an armed militia group called Jaysh al-Shabi to fight insurgents, the Washington Post says.

US Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen was cited as saying that Jaysh al-Shabi is effectively an Iran-Hezbollah “joint venture.”

According to the source, as many as 50,000 Iran-backed militiamen are operating in the war-torn Syria. Tehran provides them with cash and armor, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guards oversee their training. Iran has multiples times denied these allegations.

Syrian opposition says willing to negotiate in north Syria 

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib said on Sunday he was willing to hold talks with Bashar al-Assad's representatives in rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

The talks' objective would be to find a way for Assad to leave power with the "minimum of bloodshed and destruction", al-Khatib said in a statement published on his Facebook page.

Brahimi in continued Syria diplomacy

International Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has met in Cairo with head of the National Coalition of the Syrian Opposition Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib to discuss Khatib’s avowed readiness to accept peace talks provided the Syrian government releases all women and all 160,000 opposition supporters held in Syrian jails.

Brahimi also held talks on Sunday with Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Arabi on the “latest developments of the Syrian crisis and the possible efforts to resolve it,” KUNA news agency reported.

In late January, Al-Khatib, a leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNCROF), said he was ready to start talks with Syrian authorities, but demanded the release of 160,000 prisoners and the extension of expired passports for Syrians living outside the country.

He later said the dialogue will not start if all women being held in Syrian prisons are not released by February 10.

The Syrian government said earlier this week it is open for dialogue with the opposition, but without any preconditions.

Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, RIA, Washington Post

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