TEHRAN: Eight Iranians, two of them Revolutionary Guards forces, have been killed in Syria in recent days after Tehran increased its advisory missions to help Damascus, a guards spokesman said on Friday.
“Two guards forces, Abdollah Bagheri and Amin Karimi, were killed yesterday and today on a mission in Syria,” General Ramezan Sharif was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.
Bagheri, 33, was former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's personal bodyguard and was killed in the northern city of Aleppo.
General Sharif said five or six volunteers were also killed, according to the Youth Journalist Club, a state television website.
General Sharif also rejected rumours on social media that 15 Iranians were killed recently in Syria.
Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, standing by him since an uprising against his regime broke out in 2011.
It provides him with financial aid and military advisers against a range of opposing forces in a civil war that has that has killed more than 250,000 and displaced millions.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said this week that Tehran has increased the number of its military advisers in Syria.
Kerry sees Iran role in new Syria talks
US Secretary of State John Kerry said he expects new talks on Syria to begin as soon as next week, and did not rule out participation by Iran, President Bashar al-Assad's closest ally, which has been kept away from past peace conferences.
Along with counterparts from allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Kerry met for two hours on Friday in Vienna with Sergei Lavrov, foreign minister of Russia, which has transformed momentum in the 4-year-old Syrian civil war by bombing Assad's enemies.
So far all diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have foundered over the demand by the United States, European countries, Arab states and Turkey that Assad leave power as a pre-condition for peace, which he refuses to consider.
“What we agreed to do today is to consult with all parties and aim to reconvene, hopefully as early as next Friday, with a broader meeting in order to explore whether there is sufficient common ground to advance a meaningful political process,” Kerry told reporters.
“I am convinced ... that today's meeting was constructive and productive and succeeded in surfacing some ideas, which I am not going to share today, but which I hope have a possibility of ultimately changing the dynamic.”
Asked if a meeting next week could include Iran, Kerry said he would not speculate on who might attend.
But he added: “We want to be inclusive and err on the side of inclusivity rather than exclusivity.” Iran has not been invited to previous international peace conferences on Syria, all of which ended in failure, while the war, which has so far killed more than 250,000 people and driven millions from their homes, has raged on.
Russia has long maintained that Iran should be included in Syrian peacemaking. Lavrov said he hoped Iran, as well as Egypt, would be invited to the next round of talks.
“We requested that future contacts take place in a more representative format,” he said in comments broadcast on Russian television.