Syria PM in Iran for talks with key ally
TEHRAN - Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi arrived in Tehran on Monday for talks with key ally Iran, his country's main backer in its civil war.
Halaqi was accompanied by the oil, industry, health and electricity ministers, state news agency IRNA reported, without specifying the duration of the trip.
On Tuesday he will hold talks with Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, the government's website said.
Halaqi's visit comes one week after Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem held talks in Tehran and said the Islamic republic would back a Russian plan to end his country's more than three-year conflict.
Moscow is hoping to relaunch peace talks for the war-torn country that would include meetings between government officials and members of the opposition.
The visit also comes as UN Syrian envoy Steffan de Mistura is trying to broker a ceasefire in the northern city of Aleppo and as the Syrian army lost control Monday of two strategic bases in the northwest.
De Mistura briefed the European Union on his efforts on the weekend and on Monday the EU said it backs the plan as one of the few good options left in a conflict that has claimed more than 200,000 lives.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian army lost control Monday of the Hamdiyeh and Wadi al-Deif bases in northwestern Idlib province to Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups.
Iran is the main regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran has sent military advisers to assist his forces in fighting against rebels and jihadist militants.
Tehran also helps bankroll Syria's economy, devastated by sanctions and the fallout from the nearly four-year war, which has also displaced 7.2 million people and forced 3.2 million to flee the country.
Tehran last year offered Damascus two credit lines totalling $4.6 billion to pay for imports of energy and wheat.