UPDATE 1-Iranian minister denies Syria's Assad about to fall

Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:21am EST

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* Iranian minister sees no change in Russia's Syria stance

* Dismisses suggestion Assad is about to fall

MOSCOW Dec 18 (Reuters) - Iran does not believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government are about to fall, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Tuesday.

Asked after talks in Moscow about Western suggestions that Assad and his government might soon be ousted, he told Reuters through a translator: "We have serious doubts about that. The Syrian army and the state machine are working smoothly."

Like Russia, Iran has been a staunch ally of Assad throughout the 21-month uprising against his rule.

The minister dismissed suggestions that Moscow had altered its stance on Syria, despite remarks by a senior Russian diplomat last week acknowledging that Assad's opponents could win the conflict.

"During our talks with our Russian partners, we have found there has been no change in the Russian position on Syria," he told a news conference.

Russia has shielded Assad's government from U.N. Security Council censure and sanctions, resisting Western pressure to join efforts to push him from power.

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