US says Iran forming pro-regime militia in Syria

The United States on Tuesday accused Iran of setting up a pro-regime militia in Syria as Washington increasingly ties the crisis there to interference by its long-time foe Tehran.

Western powers are already locked in a diplomatic stand-off with Iran over what they say is its plan to develop nuclear weapons, and tensions are high between US and Iranian patrols in the oil shipping lanes of the Gulf.

Iran and Syria are long-standing allies and joint sponsors of the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, but the formation of an Iranian-backed force inside Syria would mark a new and dangerous chapter in an already bloody conflict.

Rights groups say more than 23,000 people have been killed in 17 months of fighting between troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces, including civilians killed in the regime’s brutal crackdown.

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