World Bulletin / News Desk
Iran hosts a foreign ministers' conference on Thursday to seek a resolution to the intensifying conflict in Syria but its latest diplomatic foray into the crisis has been met with deep scepticism by Western nations.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has billed the meeting of a dozen unnamed countries as an opportunity "to replace military clashes with political, indigenous approaches to settle the disputes," but there are doubts over the attendance of key players involved the crisis.
Those attending would be countries with "a correct and realistic position" on the Syrian conflict, a senior Iranian diplomat said this week, indicating that no pro-opposition nation would be present.
It was unclear which nations would attend.
The crisis has soured Iran's relations with neighbouring Turkey which has hosted opposition meetings, extended assistance to Syrian refugees and demanded Assad leave office.
"Iran wants to co-ordinate efforts among countries that don't accept the Western and Saudi approach to Syria," said Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University. "It's a counter-force to the so-called Friends of Syria gathering."
Iranian involvement in the crisis has been complicated by the seizure by rebels of 48 Iranians in Syria on Saturday on suspicion of being military personnel. Tehran has said they were pilgrims, but acknowledged that some of the men were retired soldiers or Revolutionary Guards.
Iranian officials have engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts in the region this week.
On Tuesday, while Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was in Ankara trying to maintain relations, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili was in Damascus to reassure Assad of Tehran's support.
The meeting comes just days before a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation set to focus on Syria. In recent days Iran has warned the Muslim world of the threat posed to it by the United States.
"In the new plan that the Americans have provided for the Middle East, they have foreseen changes for all countries," Iran's state news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying on Wednesday.
"I am certain they have plans for changes in Saudi Arabia as well they do not want Muslim countries to have power and in opposition we must stand together more than before," he added.
Deadly incident echoes deaths a week ago of 11 family members in roadside bomb blast
More than 7,000 people affected by bad weather, hundreds evacuated from southern districts
Cattle will only be sold in the open market for agricultural purposes, Environment Ministry says
Since troops recaptured Palmyra from the ISIL group in March, the UNESCO World Heritage site had been accessible via Syria's third city Homs, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) to the west.
The attack in Shah Wali Kot district late Thursday came just three days after 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants stormed another base in the same area.
School director, wife, daughter about to leave for Thailand when stopped at airport, official says
The centre-left president favours engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, rather than the hardline stance taken by the conservative government of his ousted precedessor Park Geun-Hye.
The two Phnom Penh residents -- a man and a woman -- were arrested on Wednesday for at least ten cases of "kidney trafficking" over the past year, said Keo Thea, the city's chief of anti-human trafficking police.
Protesters wanted the statue of the robe-clad, blindfolded woman holding scales, said to represent justice, destroyed and replaced with a Koran, despite Bangladesh's secular constitution.
Teacher Muhammed Furkan Sokmen, his wife and their two-year-old daughter were stopped at Yangon airport on Wednesday evening as they tried to board a plane to Bangkok.
Police said they were working to track down and arrest Galagodaatte Gnanasara, head of the radical Buddhist Force or BBS, after he went into hiding.
Generals are among those sent to jail over failure to prevent ISIL attack on hospital in Kabul that left 50 people dead
Defense minister defends controversial practice, but human rights activist says army acts like it is above the law
We fear for our lives as we may get caught in crossfire or may get victimized by warrantless arrests: Marawi city resident
"We ordered the service providers late Wednesday to suspend internet services as outsiders... were instigating locals with WhatsApp and Facebook posts," senior police officer Bablu Kumar told AFP.
"The relevant action taken by the US vessel undermines China's sovereignty and security interests," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing.