June 6, 2018 / 11:04 AM / 19 days ago

Lebanon's Berri says Iran, Hezbollah to stay in Syria until it is 'free'

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Iranian and Hezbollah forces will not withdraw from Syria until the country is “liberated” and its “territorial integrity is restored”, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Hezbollah and Syrian flags are seen fluttering in Fleita, Syria August 2, 2017. REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki/File Photo

Iran-backed forces such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a close political ally of Berri, have been key allies alongside Russia in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war effort.

RIA interviewed Berri in Beirut.

Both the United States and Israel have demanded that Iran should entirely withdraw from Syria, and Israel has also demanded that Hezbollah should pull out.

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a session of the national dialogue, at the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

Assad has recovered swathes of Syria from rebels seeking to oust him, but large parts of the country remain out of his hands.

Differences between his allies Iran and Russia have grown more apparent of late as Israel presses Moscow to make sure Tehran and its allies do not entrench their military sway in the country.

Israel has carried out repeated air strikes in Syria against targets connected to Iran and Hezbollah, which it wants to keep away from its border.

Lebanon is a recipient of U.S. military aid and follows a policy of disassociation from foreign conflicts.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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