ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards will play an active role in establishing a lasting “ceasefire” in crisis-hit Syria, its chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, adding that disarming Lebanon’s Hezbollah was non-negotiable, state TV reported on Thursday.
“Hezbollah must be armed to fight against the enemy of the Lebanese nation which is Israel. Naturally they should have the best weapons to protect Lebanon’s security. This issue is non-negotiable,” the television quoted Jafari as saying.
Regional tensions have risen in recent weeks between Sunni Muslim monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Iran, whose rivalry has wrought upheaval in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia has accused the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah of helping Houthi forces in Yemen and playing a role in a ballistic missile attack on the kingdom earlier this month. Iran and Hezbollah both denied the claims.
Jafari repeated Iran’s stance on its disputed ballistic missile work, saying the Islamic Republic’s missile program is for defensive purposes and not up for negotiation.
The program was not part of the 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
“Iran will not negotiate its defensive program ... there will be no talks about it,” he said.
“(French president Emmanuel) Macron’s remarks over our missile work is because he is young and inexperienced.”
Macron said earlier this month that Tehran should be less aggressive in the region and should clarify the strategy around its ballistic missile programme.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by William Maclean