(Fixes spelling of Khamenei in paragraph 1)
PARIS, July 15 Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei backs offering $5.8 billion in aid to Syria to
bolster its economy, a French newspaper said on Friday, citing a
report by a Tehran think-tank linked to Iran's leadership.
Damascus has long been Tehran's main ally among otherwise
mainly hostile Arab states. After four months of popular unrest,
Syria's economy is reeling under the weight of strikes, reduced
oil exports, scaled-back trade and international sanctions.
Its troubles have prompted Iran's leadership to consider
offering $5.8 billion in financial help, including a three-month
loan worth $1.5 billion to be made available immediately, French
business daily Les Echos said.
It added that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has
backed the idea of the aid, which was outlined in a secret
report by the Centre for Strategic Research, a think tank linked
to the Iranian leadership.
It was not possible to verify the report on Friday.
Iran, Les Echos said, could also provide 290,000 barrels of
oil to Syria each day over the next month while helping to boost
border controls to stop Syrians from fleeing the country for
Lebanon with cash.
After four months of civil uprising in Syria, human rights
groups report that more than 1,400 civilian have been killed,
drawing a chorus of condemnation from around the world.
International sanctions are only targeted at Syria's
leaders, not its banks and companies. But France and the United
States are pressing for tougher penalties and a U.N. Security
Council resolution condemning the crackdown, after the embassies
of both countries in Syria were attacked.
(Editing by Alastair Macdonald)