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TEHRAN, August 26, 2018 (News Wires) - Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Syria on Sunday for meetings with senior defence and military officials as part of a two-day visit according to the Tasnim news agency.

Iranian forces have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.

“We hope to have a productive role in the reconstruction of Syria,” Hatami said on arrival in Syria, according to Fars News.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that Iran should remove its forces from Syria.

Senior Iranian officials have said their military presence in Syria is at the invitation of the Assad government and they have no immediate plans to withdraw.

More than 1,000 Iranians, including senior members of the elite Revolutionary Guards, have been killed in Syria since 2012.

The Guards initially kept quiet about their role in the Syria conflict. But in recent years, as casualties have mounted, they have been more outspoken about their engagement, framing it as an existential struggle against the Sunni Muslim fighters of Islamic State who see Shi’ites - the majority of Iran’s population - as apostates.

GENEVA, August 23, 2018 (News Wires) -- Russian state media report that the top national security advisers for US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting in Geneva to discuss subjects including the presence of Iranian troops in Syria.

Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, and Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev were meeting Thursday as a follow-up to a summit between the Russian and US leaders in Helsinki last month.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies that Bolton and Patrushev will be discussing Iran's presence in Syria, among other things.

Iran and Russia are two leading backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Bolton is a fervent critic of Iran's leadership, saying it supports terrorism, and has defended the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal involving Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain.

MOSCOW, Aug 20, 2018 (MENA) - Saturday’s talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which lasted three hours, were serious and detailed, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters after the meeting, Tass reported.

During the talks, Putin urged European countries to actively assist the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, the Kremlin spokesman said.

"[Putin and Merkel] thoroughly discussed Syrian affairs," Peskov said. "Putin noted that the process of refugees’ return to Syria has been gradually intensifying and urged European nations to make their contribution to making this process irreversible."

"The issue of political settlement in Syria, of a wide and inclusive format of political settlement, involving all sides, was raised," he added.

MOSCOW, August 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Russia has accused the West of trying to obstruct return of Syrian refugees to their country and blocking the UN assistance for reconstruction efforts.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks on Monday with his Lebanese counterpart, Gibran Bassil, that the US refusal to provide assistance for rebuilding Syria after more than seven years of fighting hampers refugee return.

He also accused the West of pressuring the United Nations to ban UN organizations from helping reconstruction efforts in Syria pending political settlement, saying it violates UN principles.

Bassil said that Lebanon fully supports Russian efforts to help Syrian refugees return.

Lavrov also charged that al-Qaida militants located near al-Tanf in southeastern Syria where US military advisers are based have launched raids intended to prevent refugees from coming back from Jordan.

BEIJING, August 20, 2018 (MENA) - Chinese Special Envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan said on Monday that media reports about the alleged Chinese military involvement in the Syrian conflict are speculations that provide false interpretation of the Chinese political course.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Xia said "Recently, some media speculations that China is going to involve in the Syrian conflict emerged. That is a false picture of the Chinese policy. The Arab media, which issued the relevant material, later explained
that China had no military presence in Syria. China is strongly advocating settlement of the conflict only by peaceful means … China has never sent its troops to Syria."

Xie stressed that China was strongly opposing any form of terrorism and calling for the boost of the international anti-terror cooperation.

In early August, Syrian media reported that the Chinese servicemen were ready to fight terrorists in the province of Idlib and other parts of the country together with the Syrian troops.

However, reconstruction of Syria is impossible without ensuring security in the war-torn Arab republic, Chinese Special Envoy for Syria said.

"We hope that the international community will put much attention to the post-war reconstruction of Syria and take part in this process as it is not an issue of one or two states. Moreover, it is necessary to ensure basic security to start the reconstruction works," Xie told reporters.

He said that the key goal at the moment was to restore peace and stability in the country. "All the parties must take efforts in order to launch the relevant work," Xie added.


BAGHDAD, August 18, 2018 (MENA) - As many as 347 displaced Iraqis have returned to Mosul city, coming from Syria, the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement said on Saturday.

In a statement broadcast by Alsumaria news channel, the ministry said that its buses managed to bring 74 Iraqi families back from Al Hawl refugee camp in Syria to a camp in Mosul.

Further batches of Iraqi refugees will be back from Al Hawl camp in accordance with a plan that has been outlined by the ministry in coordination with the Syrian side, said the statement.

The ministry announced earlier that 446 Iraqis had returned home from Syria.

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