Iranian official killed leaving Syria: embassy

BEIRUT Thu Feb 14, 2013 3:25am EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - An Iranian official has been killed on the road from Damascus in Syria to Beirut, the Iranian embassy in Lebanon said on Thursday, blaming the attack on "armed terrorists".

It named the dead man as Hussam Khoshnevis, head of an Iranian agency which helped reconstruction in Lebanon following a 2006 war between Israel and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

A commander of Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad said the attack was carried out by rebel fighters near the Syrian town of Zabadani, a few miles (km) from the Lebanese border.

Iran's ISNA news agency also quoted an official at the Iranian Revolutionary Guards public relations office as saying an official who worked on reconstruction in Lebanon had been martyred on his way from Damascus to Beirut by mercenaries.

Iran has been a strong backer of Assad as he battles a 22-month uprising against his rule. The revolt has spiralled into civil war in which the United Nations says nearly 70,000 people have been killed.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans, Mariam Karouny and Zahra Hossenian; editing by Patrick Graham)

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