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Tehran accused of trying to carve out regional axis

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. (AP)
PARIS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday hit out at Iran, accusing it of trying to carve out an “axis” of influence stretching through Syria to the Mediterranean Sea.
Speaking about the role of Russia and Iran in helping Syrian President Bashar Assad regain the upper hand in the civil war, Le Drian said: “Russia supplies aviation and support on the ground but Iran supplies its militia and supports Hezbollah.”
In a France 2 TV program on Syria, Le Drian was particularly critical of Iran, which is vying for regional supremacy.
“Iran’s presence (in Syria) and Iran’s desire to create an axis from the Mediterranean to Tehran: No!” Le Drian declared, insisting that any deal on Syria’s future needed to ensure it remained “independent from the pressure and presence of other countries.”
He said: “Syria must become a sovereign state again and that means (a country) independent of the pressure and presence of other countries.”
Referring to the besieged opposition-held region of Eastern Ghouta, he said: “If you can summon Assad to Sochi, you can also tell him to stop (bombing) and allow aid to everyone.”
The main actors in this affair are Russia and Iran, they need to use their weight to lead a political solution with the other members of the Security Council, Le Drian said, repeating that Assad was not the solution.
“He is barbaric, but he is there, so we have to a start the process that leads to a (new) constitution and elections under the UN,” he said. “I struggle to imagine that populations who have suffered so much consider him part of the solution.”
This is not the first time Le Drian has expressed concern over Iran’s intervention in conflicts.
In remarks following a visit to Saudi Arabia by French President Emmanuel Macron in November, Le Drian accused Iran of having “hegemonic” intentions in the region.
A furious Iran accused France of having a “biased and partisan approach to the crises in the region,” alleging the stance was “contributing to turning potential crises into real ones.”
Macron has announced plans to visit Iran in 2018.

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