Iran will continue to back the Syrian government, which acts as a pillar of an Iran-led regional alliance, a high-level Iranian diplomat has told President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
Saeed Jalili, a senior aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in the meeting with Assad on Tuesday that what was happening in Syria was "not an internal issue".
It is "a conflict between the axis of resistance on one hand, and the regional and global enemies of this axis on the other", Jalili said.
The remarks came amid continued clashes between Syrian government troops and rebels in the country's commercial capital, Aleppo.
Assad, for his part, pledged to to crush the 17-month rebellion against him and to cleanse the country of "terrorists".
"The Syrian people and their government are determined to purge the country of terrorists and to fight the terrorists without respite," he was quoted by state news agency SANA as telling Jalili.
Iran, which has voiced growing criticism of support by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the rebels, also sent Ali Akbar Salehi, its foreign minister, to Ankara and a letter to Washington holding them responsible for the fate of 48 kidnapped Iranians.
Iranian state media quoted Jalili as saying Iran "believes in national dialogue between all domestic groups to be the solution, and believes foreign solutions are not helpful".
Earlier, visiting Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, on Monday, Jalili issued a veiled warning to countries backing the rebels.
"Those who believe that, by developing insecurity in the countries of the region by sending arms and exporting terrorism, they are buying security for themselves are wrong," Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling Adnan Mansour, Lebanon foreign minister.
Following the Damascus talks, Jalili told Iran's Al-Alam Arabic-language television that his country was using "all means possible" to secure the release of its abducted citizens.
He said Iran held responsible not only the kidnappers but also those foreign governments that supported the rebels fighting Assad's forces.
"We believe that not only terrorists but also their supporters are responsible for this criminal act," Jalili said.
Clashes in Aleppo
On the ground in Aleppo, clashes rocked several areas of the city centre early on Tuesday, while the army also shelled rebel-held areas in the east, activists said.
The fighting in Aleppo killed at least 23 people, the Local Co-ordination Committees, an opposition activist network said, adding that the nationwide toll was 115.
Troops fought rebels in the Bab Antakya, Aziziyeh, Bab Janin and Sabaa Bahrat areas of central Aleppo and near the Palace of Justice in the west.
Fighting also reportedly broke out for the first time in al- Ashrafiyeh district in the northwest when rebels attacked a military post.
Aleppo has been bracing for a threatened major ground offensive by the army against the rebels, who say they control around half of the city.
A senior security official said on Sunday the army had completed the build-up of some 20,000 troops in readiness for a decisive showdown in the battle under way since July 20.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|