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U.S. Defense Chief Says Iran Developing 'Militia' Within Syria

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says Iran is working to form a pro-regime militia inside Syria, warning that Tehran's growing presence could only aggravate the situation on the ground.

"There's now an indication that they're trying to develop, trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime," Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.

"The Syrian people ought to determine their future, not Iran," he added.

The United States, Western allies, and the Syrian rebels accuse Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hizballah, of providing military assistance to the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Tehran, which is Damascus's last remaining regional ally, has denied this.

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