Iran criticizes Qatar for giving embassy to Syrian opposition
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, accused Qatar on Friday of "intensifying the bloodshed" in Syria and criticized it for enabling an opposition bloc to open its first embassy in Doha.
Syrian opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib, whose group is recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative for Syria, opened the embassy in Qatar on Wednesday.
"It is in Qatar's interest to stop making hasty actions and intensifying the bloodshed in Syria," Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as saying.
"The wise ... people of Syria will never allow others to make decisions for them," he said.
Shi'ite Iran has strongly supported Assad in a two-year-old conflict that began with peaceful protests and turned into an armed revolt in which some 70,000 people have been killed.
In a blow to Assad, the Arab League on Tuesday gave Syria's seat to Alkhatib at a summit in Doha. It also endorsed the provision of military aid to Syrian rebels.
Tehran, calling the Arab League's decision "a pattern of dangerous behavior", has been at loggerheads with Western and Arab governments calling for Assad's exit from power. It accuses them of fomenting terrorism in Syria by arming rebels.
Iran has emphasized the importance of elections and reforms in Syria, but does not accept Assad's removal, saying a solution to the crisis cannot be imposed from outside the country.
Analysts say losing its Syrian ally would weaken Iran's ability to threaten its arch-foe Israel through the Syrian-backed Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah movement.
(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
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