ASSAILANTS shot dead an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander in Syria while he was travelling by road from Damascus towards the Lebanese capital Beirut, the Iranian authorities said on Thursday.
Iran’s elite fighting force have named the slain man as Commander Hassan Shateri, in a statement on its website that said he was killed while travelling from Damascus to Beirut.
‘Commander Hassan Shateri was killed en route from Damascus to Beirut by the hands of Zionist regime mercenaries and backers,’ the force’s spokesman, Ramezan Sherif, said in the statement.
Sherif identified Shateri as a Revolutionary Guards commander who was also head of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon.
According to Iran’s Fars news agency, Shateri was killed on Tuesday.
His funeral was held in Tehran yesterday morning, and was attended by Revolutionary Guards chief Ali Jaafari, the head of the foreign operations Quds Force unit Qassem Soleimani, and Ali Saidi, representative of Iran’s supreme leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The NATO-supported Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Shateri was shot dead by ‘Syrian rebels’ while he was en route from the Syrian capital to Lebanon.
‘We do not know exactly where he was shot, but we do know that a rebel group ambushed his vehicle while en route from Damascus to Beirut,’ Britain-based Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The Iranian embassy in Beirut said ‘armed terrorists’ killed a man it identified as Hessam Khoshnevis, adding that he had been involved in reconstruction work in Lebanon.
The embassy named him as ‘Hassan Shateri also known as Hessam Khoshnevis’.
It said he was in charge of the Iranian Committee for the Reconstruction of Lebanon set up after the devastating war in 2006 between Israel and Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militia, which is supported by Iran.
The embassy statement did not elaborate on the circumstances or the exact location of his death.
According to Lebanese newspaper As-Safir: ‘Khoshnevis was in Syria, in the northern city of Aleppo, to study projects to reconstruct the city.’
Meanwhile, the Syrian government says it will welcome talks with the so-called opposition inside Syria.
On Wednesday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the country is ready for dialogue with the opposition in Syria as long as it is based on political reforms outlined by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
‘Damascus’ gates are open for dialogue on a Syrian land and under the roof of the homeland,’ the statement read.
The ministry said the country welcomed Russia’s invitation to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov will also meet Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the foreign-backed Syrian National Coalition, when he visits Russia.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry stressed that Moallem’s visit is not related to Khatib’s trip to Russia.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Wednesday that Moallem would visit Russia by the end of February, and Khatib would come in the next two or three weeks.
Elsewhere, the chief UN atomic inspector said Thursday that talks with Iran had failed again to reach a deal on agreeing enhanced inspections of Tehran’s nuclear programme, and that no new meeting had been set.
‘We had discussions on the structured approach document but could not finalise the document,’ Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters at Vienna airport after returning from Tehran.
‘Our commitment to continued dialogue is unwavering. We will work hard now to resolve the remaining differences but time is needed to reflect on the way forward,’ he said.
‘We haven’t agreed yet on a date for the next meeting.’
He declined to comment on whether the two sides had made any progress towards a deal.
Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was quoted Wednesday by the Iranian news agency ISNA as saying: ‘Some differences were resolved and agreement on some issues in the modality was reached.’
‘New proposals’, Soltanieh said, had been put forward in the meeting but they would be discussed at ‘future meetings’. He did not however give a date for a new round of talks.
The meeting was the latest in a string of failed talks at which the IAEA pressed Iran to grant access to sites, scientists and documents that the agency claims may have been part of a nuclear weapons drive.
Iran says that the IAEA’s allegations are based on flawed Western intelligence – which it has not been allowed to see, and says it has never sought to develop the bomb.
This latest failure comes less than two weeks before talks between Iran and six world powers – the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – in Kazakhstan on February 26.
These talks follow three rounds in 2012, the last in Moscow in June, at which the six, known as the P5+1, pressed Iran to scale back what they say are key areas of its alleged nuclear programme.
Iran however walked away because the P5+1 stopped short of offering Tehran relief from UN Security Council and unilateral Western sanctions that last year began to cause major economic problems for the Persian Gulf country.
• A teenage boy was shot dead during clashes with police in a village near Manama, the Bahraini capital, on Thursday, as hundreds took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of the uprising in the kingdom.
‘The child, Hussein al-Jaziri, was martyred after he was seriously wounded by shotgun fire in Dia,’ Bahrain’s main opposition bloc Al-Wefaq announced.
The interior ministry said that ‘a wounded person who was brought to Al-Salmaniya hospital was pronounced dead and the public prosecution was informed of the incident’.
It gave no further details.
Protests erupted early morning in several Shiite villages as the opposition marked two years since the start of an uprising against the feudal monarchy which has signalled the beginning of the end for the pro-imperialist feudal regime.
Police fired shotguns and tear gas to disperse the protesters who responded by hurling petrol bombs at security forces, according to witnesses.
The protests came in response to calls by opposition groups for strikes and nationwide protests to mark the uprising that began on February 14, 2011.
The group, February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition urged marches on Pearl Square, where protesters camped for a month before being forcefully driven out by the Bahraini and Saudi Arabian military in mid-March 2011.
Bahraini authorities in turn appealed for people to ignore the calls for strikes and civil disobedience.
The two years of unrest in Bahrain has left at least 80 people dead, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
Britain is a key supporter of the feudal regime, supplying it with arms and personel.