World Bulletin / News Desk
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi is to visit Turkey on Tuesday for previously unscheduled talks expected to focus on Syria and a group of Iranians seized by rebels there, an Iranian diplomat in Ankara said.
A Turkish foreign ministry official confirmed the visit, during which he said regional issues will be discussed in talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
"It is expected that the talks will take up the Syrian issue and the situation of the pilgrims kidnapped in Damascus, as well as bilateral issues," the Iranian diplomat told Reuters.
He said Salehi was expected to arrive in the afternoon and leave again on Tuesday.
Iran has asked Turkey, as well as Qatar, to help secure the release of 48 Iranians seized by rebels in Syria on suspicion of being military personnel. Tehran says are pilgrims.
A Syrian rebel spokesman said on Monday three of the Iranians had been killed in a government air strike in Damascus and warned the rest of them would be executed if the attacks did not stop. There has been no word of their fate since then.
Syrian rebels fighting to topple Assad accuse Iran of sending fighters from its Revolutionary Guard to help Assad's forces put down the 17-month uprising.
Tehran denies the charge and says the group was on a religious pilgrimage to Syria. Iranian media said on Saturday that the 48 were abducted from a bus in Damascus, the latest in a string of kidnappings of visitors from the Islamic Republic.
In a sign of Tehran's diplomatic efforts to secure the release of its nationals, the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, flew to Damascus on Tuesday after ending a visit in Beirut.
An arrest warrant for the four was also withdrawn, Gulden Sonmez, a lawyer for the victims, wrote on Twitter after a closed door hearing in Istanbul.
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