TEHRAN: Iran "will not allow the enemy to advance" in its key ally Syria, but does not yet see the need to directly intervene, the deputy chief of the Islamic republic's armed forces was quoted as saying in reports Tuesday.
"There is still no need for Syria's circle of friends to fully enter the arena, and our assessment is that there will be no need to do so," Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri said, according to the Shargh daily.
"In special situations, we decide how to support the regional (anti-Israeli) resistance and our friends. We shall wait to see the future situation and conditions," he said.
"We are very sensitive when it comes to our friends in the (anti-Israeli) resistance in the region, and we will not allow the enemy to advance," he said.
A senior commander in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, General Hamid Reza Moqadam-Far, was quoted in another newspaper, Kayhan, saying that Syrian civilians were now fighting rebels alongside the regime's troops.
He added that, if the rebellion was routed, it would "deliver an enormous blow to Saudi Arabia and Western countries," which Tehran sees as directly helping the insurgents.
Iran is one of the key allies of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, alongside Russia and China. It sees Syria as part of a regional anti-Israeli bloc that includes itself, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, and the Palestinian group Hamas.
Tehran has been providing humanitarian aid and diplomatic support to Damascus, but denies reports it has already sent military assistance.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi held a telephone conversation late Monday with his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, in which he said there was a need for a dialogue to be held between Syria's regime and opposition to resolve the conflict.
"Syria's friends and those who want peace and stability in the region must prepare the ground to permit dialogue between the regime and the opposition to facilitate an exit from the crisis," Salehi was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.
On Monday, the Syrian regime sent helicopter gunships and artillery to pound rebel-held districts in Aleppo, the country's commercial capital.
The 16-month uprising in Syria, and Assad's crackdown on it, has cost more than 20,000 lives according to activists and sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing their homes.