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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni backs offering $5.8bn in aid to Syria to bolster its economy, a French newspaper said on Friday, citing a report by a Tehran think-tank linked to Iran’s leadership.

Damascus has long been Tehran’s main ally among otherwise mainly hostile Arab states. After four months of popular unrest, Syria’s economy is reeling under the weight of strikes, reduced oil exports, scaled-back trade and international sanctions.

Its troubles have prompted Iran’s leadership to consider offering $5.8bn in financial help, including a three-month loan worth $1.5bn to be made available immediately, French business daily Les Echos said.

It added that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed the idea of the aid, which was outlined in a secret report by the Centre for Strategic Research, a think tank linked to the Iranian leadership.

It was not possible to independendly verify the report on Friday.

Iran, Les Echos said, could also provide 290,000 barrels of oil to Syria each day over the next month while helping to boost border controls to stop Syrians from fleeing the country for Lebanon with cash. 

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