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Iran minister: foreign fighters should leave Syria

Friday - 1/24/2014, 1:20pm  ET

AP Diplomatic Writer

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) -- Iran's foreign minister called Friday for foreign fighters to leave Syria so that its people can decide their future themselves.

Speaking on a panel discussion about the Middle East at the World Economic Forum, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran also wants to see an end to foreign support for opponents of President Bashar Assad's government and recognition by all sides that there can be no military solution to the conflict. He said Tehran hoped for a negotiated settlement.

Iran is one of Assad's closest allies and has been widely criticized in the West for sending fighters to Syria and for supporting Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, which is battling on the government's side.

Zarif's call for "all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria" was endorsed by fellow panelists, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Sami Judeh and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, before the crowd of political and financial elites.

Judeh noted that Saudi Arabia and others at the opening of the Syria peace conference in Montreux on Wednesday also backed the withdrawal of foreign forces.

"There is a consensus that non-Syrian fighters should withdraw from Syria," said another panelist, Ghassan Salame, dean of the Paris School of International Affairs.

Salame said the U.N. Security Council should adopt a resolution demanding such a withdrawal since there seems to be a consensus among those at Montreux and in Davos, a proposal which was greeted with loud applause.

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