Iran admits men held in Syria are retired soldiers
TEHRAN – Iran’s foreign minister said some of the Iranians kidnapped by Syrian rebels last week are retired soldiers or Revolutionary Guards, according to Iranian media.
“Some of these beloved ones were on IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and military pensions . . . and others were from other different departments,” Ali Akbar Salehi told Iran’s student news agency Isna.
He denied they now had any military connection.
The admission adds weight to the assertion by Syrian rebels that the busload of 48 Iranians they admitted detaining since Saturday were military personnel.
Tehran has said they were pilgrims visiting a Shia shrine in Damascus.
Iran has steadfastly supported its ally, Syrian president Bashar al- Assad, in his attempts to crush opposition to his rule.
Mr Salehi’s comments were published after he visited Turkey on Tuesday to ask Ankara to use its links with Syrian rebels to secure the release of the Iranians.
He said retired government employees from a number of agencies had signed up to make pilgrimages to Damascus after recent fighting in the Syrian capital had subsided. – (Reuters)