Syria rebels say Iran introduced new conditions to Aleppo ceasefire deal

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Officials with two Syrian rebel groups and a United Nations official said that Iran had introduced new conditions to the Aleppo ceasefire and evacuation deal negotiated by Russia and Turkey.

One of the rebel officials and the U.N. official said Iran, which backs some powerful militias fighting in Aleppo on the government side, wanted a simultaneous evacuation of wounded from the Shi’ite Muslim villages of Foua and Kefraya that are besieged by rebels.

A Turkey-based official with the Jabha Shamiya rebel faction said the condition had been relayed to the group, one of the largest fighting in Aleppo, but did not say how.

“The negotiations have now failed, they have refused to let people go, they are making excuses about a number of things. Amongst them is Foua and Kefraya. But this is an excuse more than reality,” said a Turkey-based official with a Free Syrian Army-allied rebel group present in Aleppo.

“It is an excuse to make the agreement fail, because the Iranians do not want the agreement,” he said.

A U.N. official said: “Apparently, the Iranians have conditions on simultaneous evacuation from Fuaa and Kefraya.”

A spokesman for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki group, communicating with journalists on a messaging group, said the “Iranian sectarian militias have foiled the besieged Aleppo truce... requiring new files in their own special interests”.

The Zinki spokesman said the ceasefire agreement had been between the rebels and Russia and did not include Iran.

Iran supports some Shi’ite militias that are fighting alongside the Syrian army, including the Lebanese Hezbollah group and the Iraqi group Harakat al-Nujaba. The army is backed by the Russian air force.

Reporting by Tom Perry, Lisa Barrington and Angus McDowall in Beirut and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Catherine Evans