Iran warns of regional ‘catastrophe’ if no political solution is found to Syria crisis

The Associated Press reports: An Iranian official has warned of a “catastrophe” in the Middle East if no political solution is found to the 16-month crisis in Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian also says Syria has a strong army and is able to defend itself from attack alone without Iran’s help.

Iran is Syria’s closest ally and has stood by President Bashar Assad’s regime through the uprising against his rule.

Abdollahian spoke at a press conference in Amman, Jordan, Sunday.

His comments follow an acknowledgement by special envoy Kofi Annan that the international community’s efforts to find a political solution to the escalating violence in Syria have failed.

Reuters reports: Syria’s navy fired live missiles from ships and helicopters over the weekend, state media said on Sunday, in an exercise aiming at showcasing its ability to “defend Syria’s shores against any possible aggression”.

Syrian television aired video of a variety of missiles being fired from launchers on land and from ships and showed the Syrian Defence Minister Dawud Abdallah Rahijia in attendance.

“Naval Forces conducted an operational live fire exercise on Saturday, using missiles launched from the sea and coast, helicopters and missile boats, simulating a scenario of repelling a sudden attack from the sea,” Syrian news agency SANA said, adding manoeuvres would continue for several days.

Opposition figures have been calling for a no-fly zone and NATO strikes against Syrian forces, similar to those carried out in Libya last year which enabled rebel ground forces to end the rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

But while President Bashar al-Assad has faced sanctions and international condemnation over his crackdown on dissent which has left thousands dead, major Western and Arab powers have shied away from the idea of direct military action.

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